Talent Management: Impact of Pivotal Roles on System Performance

In earlier posts I broached the subject of pivotal roles and their significance in doing TM. Today’s post will look at this from a slightly different perspective (in terms of typical TM activities such as Workforce Planning). Yet it is a perspective that everyone of us can specifically relate to and in many cases we have had the experience.

In our local newspapers there have been a series of articles (e.g., Vancouver Sun 28 February, 2011, “Helping patients through the turmoil”, page B3) on “patient navigation”. This is where an intermediary assists patients (and their family members) work with the complex seemingly byzantine health system (such as a hospital). Interestingly, these intermediaries also help the health/medical system deal with patients and their families too when situation benefits from it.

This is a classic TM situation: We have a need to access suitable talent on a timely and competent manner. Conceptually this parallels exactly what an organization needs regarding talent (the differing circumstances may be about criticality – but not always).

Pivotal roles are interesting from the TM perspective because they have leveraging impact on total business system performance. These are the roles where you must have stars/A level performing people in them. If you were to just pay attention to your pivotal roles you would be able to provide significant economic benefits to the organization.

What makes a pivotal role pivotal?

  • Have a system impact that is proportionally greater than other roles within the system. If the role is filled with A level performers you will observe system performance that is greater than if you had B level performers in the role. An example might be a star negotiator who is able to consistently achieve superior contractual bargains for the firm.
  • Have the ability to impact (elevate/diminish) the performance of other roles in a disproportional manner. These are roles that often coordinate the effective operations of other system roles. these roles will often be modest ones in the system, for example they would include the receptionist scheduler in a dentists or family physician’s office.

The patient navigation role matches the second criteria above. And the benefits not only extend to the patients involved but they apparently have broader system benefits such as helping to reduce waiting lists (as noted in the above mentioned article).

As a general observation: where there is system complexity due to specialization, processes, procedures and the like, coordinating and facilitating type of pivotal roles become necessary if the system is to provide its maximum benefits to clients, customers or patients. For as much as we sometimes get frustrated with the need to use “middle persons” to get our needs met, when the role is done well we can truly see and appreciate the results.

Here again, I will make my pitch about viewing TM as a process for securing access to, and effectively using, appropriate talent as and when needed. This notion of TM enables us to more easily see TM related issues in non-employee centric areas. The other reciprocal benefit is we can see successful practices in other fields and consider their application in our circumstances.

When I work with clients, I always spend extra energy examining where the pivotal roles are and how they are performing and how if we elevate their performance further we achieve TM benefits in other roles (perhaps the ones we are having difficulties with).


About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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