In this post we explore what we can look at in our business environments to discern TM uncertainties and risks (U&R). We will examine two scenarios that are real and for some of you have already happened in one fashion or other.
First a context.
Because this BLOG recognizes that TM extends well beyond being a great employer (attracting, retaining and using great employees) to considering all forms that we access talent: buying finished products and services, contracting for special knowledge and skills, outsourcing, etc. The need to sense how the environment can affect our successful access and effective use of talent is diverse in nature.
What happens if we choose to use a narrower notion of TM? This question will be answered at the end of this post.
We will look at two scenarios that illustrate how talent supplies can be fundamentally dislocated from normal expected patterns.
Scenario: Impact of a Super Mega Project – building a super tower city.
These are tower cities that can house, employ, entertain, etc. hundreds of thousands of residents. The structures would be huge.
This scenario is not far fetched. About ten years ago I became aware of how serious the consideration of this option for dealing with population growth its myriad impacts on the environment. From an engineering perspective this type of project is possible. Subsequent events of course show us that this approach to urban development is not practical for other reasons.
What struck me most with kind of development is the TM implications. A commentator brought this to mind with the following observation:
“While being built the economic impacts would include the fact that global glass making capacity would be totally allocated to the project.”
Such a project would be years in the construction. So this dislocation of glass making capacity would be felt for years during and subsequently.
The lesson for TMO include: Looking for dislocating events or activities in your business environment that will have substantial TM implications. If such a project began, would you even be in a circumstance where you would be capable of flagging the potential U&R to your organization?
Some of you may see this a pure speculation. However, how many of you have unwittingly felt the impacts of the oil sands development in Alberta on your ability to secure access to critical technical and related talent? For those of you did feel the effects, did you see the oil sands technical talent vacuum coming well before it arrived on your doorstep?
But it gets worse. It’s one thing to be alert to what is going to be happening two – five years out regarding your employment related talent. But it’s another when a key supplier or even customer isn’t.
Thinking about TM in the context of total operating system (our organization is a central part of this analysis) helps the economically astute TMO to see where things can go very wrong AND just as importantly see where the opportunities are.
I define an opportunity as: “I have a solution to your dilemma!”
What can this look like in a practical sense?
- You don’t use technical talent, but your supplier of maintenance services does. You have a TM problem.
- Your key customer takes your product and using their technical talent does further processing to create their own products. You have a TM problem.
Now, how might you consider these circumstances as opportunities? If you find an approach – you will have a remarkable competitive advantage. Why? Your talent competition, face the same situation as you did and now they face the compounded issue of you having a solution to it. This might be a solution that they are not able to replicate of offset. If one of your competitors finds the solution the proverbial shoe is o the other foot.
Scenario: You want to expand your business into a new (to you at least) area.
Perhaps you are considering developing and bringing to market a new product, one that opens up new business horizons. Clearly there are any number of planning, development and logistical issues to deal with. What are the critical TM issues for you?
First, is your TM planning horizon in sync with your business development horizon? I have found organizations who on one hand say that long term planning (over three years) is impractical, then in the very next breath, commit the organization to a business direction for the next five to ten years. At the very least if your TM planning processes aren’t in sync with the planning and staging horizons of your business development group, you are not in the strategy game.
Second, what do you look at? I suggest there are two things:
- What talent is critical to execute the business development plan. When is it needed? For how long is it needed? What special circumstances are it needed by? Where is the market place of supply? Will the supply market be able to provide what we need (what will we do if there are issues here) ? How long do need to secure suitable access to this talent?
- What talent is critical for successful startup and operation of our new venture? The questions above generally apply in one form or other.
About fourteen years ago I read a case study where a high technology firm did not do the second item above. The outcome was there was no talent supply market capable of meeting this facility’s needs. Because this TM U&R was not even contemplated resulted in the project being mothballed. This case study was the epiphany that got me interested in TM. I recognized that this should never have happened, what a total waste of working capital.
Again, You might be relying on a key supplier to build a facility to supply you with additional inputs for your business expansion. If they make similar TM omissions? Your business goals are jeopardized. You have a TM driven issue. Perhaps a key customer is wanting to expand their capacity and this will mean additional revenue for you. What if they make similar TM omissions? Your business goals are jeopardized. You have a TM driven issue.
So we come back to the question of how narrow should your notion of TM activity be?
If you subscribe to a systems view of the world, you will always look beyond the system (your organization) walls. The examples above illustrate that this is not a theoretical issue at all.