Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Peter Drucker gives advice about hiring.

Post 491 - This is from an article published in Marriott's Portfolio magazine in 1986. Peter Drucker was the greatest management thinker of the last century; yet he was able to speak in plain language that was understood by ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of people; they certainly influenced me over the decades we worked together at Claremont Graduate University. Drucker believed that talented people were the essential ingredient of every successful enterprise and he taught generations of managers the importance of picking the best people. Here's a summary of his ideas:

- Think through the assignment.
Job descriptions may last a long time. Indeed, the job description for bishops in the Roman Catholic church hasn't changed at all since canon law was first codified in the thirteenth century. But assignments change all the time, and unpredictably. When choosing a division commander, General George Marshall always looked at the nature of the assignment for the next two years. To form a division and train it is one assignment. To lead it into battle is quite another. To take command of a division that's been mauled in battle and restore its morale and fighting strength is another still. Each of these is a different assignment and requires a different kind of person.

- Look at three to five qualified candidates.
Formal qualifications are a minimum for consideration; their absence disqualifies a candidate automatically. Equally important, the person and the assignment need to fit each other.

- Think hard about how to look at these candidates.
Studying the assignment helps you understand what a new person needs to do with high priority and concentrated effort. The central question isn't, "What can this or that candidate do or not do." Rather, it's "What strengths does each candidate have and are these the right strengths for the assignment." For example, when General Marshall was hiring for a training assignment, he looked for people who could turn recruits into soldiers. He knew that anyone who was good at that was likely to have serious weaknesses in other areas. But if he was the best for the assignment, he got the job. Marshall figured the army could always supply what was needed to compensate for the candidate's deficiencies.

- Discuss each of the candidates with several people who've worked with them.
One opinion is worthless. We all have first impressions, prejudices, likes and dislikes, so it's important to listen to what other people think. And it's best to do this informally. When the military picks general officers, this kind of extensive discussion is a formal step in the selection process.

- Make sure the appointee understands the job.
It's not immediately obvious to most people that a new and different job requires new and different behavior. So after the person has been in the job for a few months, call him or her in and say, "You've now been in this job now for several months. What do you have to do to be a success in this assignment? Think it through and get back to me in writing in a week or ten days. And remember, the things you did to get the promotion are almost certainly the wrong things to be doing now."

- Final thoughts.
If someone gets promoted because of politics, everybody will know it. And they'll say to themselves, "Okay, that's the way to get ahead in this company." People in organizations tend to behave as they see others being rewarded. Also, whenever a job defeats several people in a row who had performed well in previous assignments, it's time to abolish the job. Any job that ordinarily competent people can't perform is a job that can't be staffed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!