Posted by: knightbird | September 2, 2011

Traditional Hiring Criteria

In a lean environment, evaluation the hiring of executive officers is difficult. In my experience, there are precious few executives who have any clue about the potential for an organization. Most candidates are typical command and control management types who achieve modest success or have walked into a situation where luck has given them successes to talk about. Most executive candidates are flavor of the day types who find possible one off strategies that may produce some results through close oversight of employees involved in the improvement event. In my view, this leads to the type of improvements referred to as Hawthorne effects—if you pay attention to something, it will improve as long as you pay attention to it. After that, the gains will usually dissipate.

In traditional executive hires, longevity in tenure and financial results seem to be the focus. And the hiring board gets just what they ask for. Financial management that leads to nothing, or less than nothing; project management with gains that last so long as the project is managed; and one off consulting projects with marginal improvement until the project ends. Very few boards are visionary enough to look beyond this model.

The other model of selection is political. Some executive candidates project well, that is, they look like executives. In the book Moneyball, it was represented that baseball scouts look for players who “look like ballplayers.” So player candidates with skills who don’t look like a ballplayer get drafted late, or not at all, yet have more to offer than the players who look the part. Some executive candidates “look” the part, and have the skills boards are looking for—the political skills. These executives learn to “pander” to the board instead of help lead the board. They dish out perks and benefits to gain support. Once hired, suck candidates produce only marginal improvements. Mission gets lip service, employees remain second class participants with high turnover rates and customers receive marginal services. Such is our normal fate in the Alaska Tribal Health System.

Searching for lean executives means you need to look for someone with a vision, creativity and enthusiasm. Such a leader has to inspire others to take on difficult tasks. A lean leader must also be a teacher at all times. They have to learn cooperative means of problem solving even when they are capable of solving the problems themselves. We look for different qualifications other than what the rest of the business world looks for. I really look forward to the day when our leadership recognizes that.

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