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An open letter to the CEO

Good morning. As the chief executive officer of your organization, I understand that the current economic environment has you swamped. I have never walked a mile in your shoes but I have been exposed to the periphery in that my father was the retired vice chairman of the board of a Fortune 100 multinational corporation and my grandfather was the President of the Philadelphia Board of Trade. As a result, I am only asking you for five minutes of your time to stop and consider the contents of this open letter.

If you are like many CEO’s, you have been brought up through the rans being told that your job responsibilities involve telling the organization in essence that here is what we are going to do and this is how we are going to do it. At the same time you totally understand that in order for your organization to be viable and sustainable you need to oversee your organization becoming innovative within the marketplace. I am here to tell you that you are missing the most exciting part of that strive for innovation. Before I explain the comment consider the two examples below:

Example 1: We conduct a two-day training class leading to certification in continuous process improvement. Part of that class is for the participants to bring an issue from work and create an improvement project. On one of the evaluation forms from one of the most recent class sessions, one of the participants stated that the least valuable part of the class was the final project because management would never permit me to start the project.

Example 2: In another presentation of the same class to an audience of HR professionals, one of those in attendance presented a project to the class and then took it to her boss. Her boss said let’s go with it. However, his/her boss said no we can’t do it.

Example 3: On a mor positive note, another presentation of the course resulted in a project to reduce the amount of time to hire. It was approved by management and the organization witnessed time to hire reduction from 111 days to 35 days and the cost of hire from $5427 to $1744.

So, what missing in the first two examples? What is missing is the understanding on the part of management that the key to innovation is changes in small steps through experimentation. You and your fellow members of management are now human capital management scientists. It means the continuous process improvement steps should be treated as a scientific experiment. Some things will work, and someone will not. Thomas Edison tells us that he did not fail he just found 10,000 things that did not work. The problem with the first two examples is that our organizational human capital assets are non-owned, corporate leased assets. They are the subject matter experts who see, feel and understand where the organizational process’s function.

What are the implications for your organization?

Your goal is to increase the bottom line of the organization. You can either do so by cutting costs such as reductions in force or you can increase the amount of revenue that flows through the organization. You achieve the latter by recognizing the worth of your human capital assets. You achieve this by being willing to take the risk that the suggested improvement project on its face may have merit and don’t throw up system constraints that hinder the chance of organizational innovation. Think of 3M who allowed one of their human capital assets and a small team to experiment with a new concept which in turn provided 3M to introduce a new product to the marketplace which you use every day – in the office and at home. That product is the post-a-note.

If you want to be a sustainable and viable organization in today’s market, we need to understand that there are two aspects to every continuous process improvement effort. One side represents the technical side. The contents of your various processes. The other side of the coin and the location of the most potential for breakthrough innovation is in the organizational development side of the improvement. Recognizing that your human capital assets hold great value and importance to your organization. It is your human capital assets functioning as a true cross-functional team hold the tools to bring forth these breakthrough concepts. It is your human capital assets who can bring forth the true Shu Ha Ri of learning the process and where its hiccups are and how to bring forth dramatic improvements. Where the human capital assets learn by doing and things bring about the new ways of doing old things.

Thank you for your five minutes this morning. The next time you see a manager talking about conducting an improvement project (an experiment), don’t dismiss it out of hand. Consider the potential for bringing you that next breakthrough way of conducting your business and how it operates. Remember that you don’t know if it is going to make the significant change to your organization like, is shown in example 3, unless you try.

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About the author: Daniel Bloom knows HR and Change Management. He’s a speaker on transformational HR, a strategic HR consultant and trainer. Looking to ways to enhance your vale to your organization? We now offer virtual fully accredited six-sigma yellow belt certification training. Learn more at