Getting clear


Clarity. It’s what we are all desperate for in this complex, fast-moving world of ours. As humans, we crave it; in business, we need it to survive and thrive. We even need clarity on what we need clarity about. What do I need to focus on, and what can I allow to drop into the background? Clarity can mean discerning a pattern within apparent chaos (making manageable that which is unwieldy) as well as articulating hidden complexities and nuances (expanding beyond the obvious). The goal is the same – to see clearly, gain insight, and focus your efforts accordingly. Too often in our quest for clarity, we treat it as an intellectual exercise. We overcomplicate that which is actually simple, and oversimplify that which is really complicated. Clarity is achieved, however, when we appreciate both levels and manage to connect the two.

Human capital management is both simple and complicated. We need to be adept at running between simplicity and complexity and back again – start with the big picture, hash out the complexities, winnow out the critical bits, and rethread it all in a meaningful way. I suggest organizational leaders need to gain clarity through three key activities: (1) defining the direction of the organization, (2) aligning talent, and (3) continuous evolution.

  • Direction. Ideally before their inception, but usually in an ad hoc, iterative fashion, organizations need to answer the big questions for themselves. Who are we? What do we want to achieve? How will we achieve it? These big questions about purpose and values, mission and vision, strategy and culture should be the beam of light that provides clarity when other issues get murky. When purpose and principles are at the forefront, we know not just what decisions to make, but also which decisions don’t need to be made.
  • Alignment. And if you know who you are and where you are going, you are better situated to get clarity on the next big questions – who do we want taking us there? This begins with questions about skill mix and values fit. Warm bodies aren’t enough. Warm bodies with the right skills aren’t enough. Warm bodies with the right skills who want to go in the same direction and in the same way that you do is what you want. We really don’t invest enough in getting the right people on board. Most companies still fail to use proven assessment and selection methods based on a thorough analysis of the job and required competencies. You can’t get clarity around crucial talent management decisions without decent data.
  • Evolution. Gaining clarity is a process, because inevitably change comes along to create turbulence, which muddies the waters all over again. We need to continually ask ourselves – how are we doing now? Are we still on the path toward the goal? Is it the same goal? What do we need to improve? Do we have the right talent on board? Are they engaged, and if not why not? Where is there a disconnect, and what can we do to fix it? We gather input through various surveys and talent analytics and use the knowledge we gain to adjust our tactics. Change creates churn and chaos, which we need to combat with clarity.

Know where you are going, get the right people on board, and make adjustments as change occurs. Sounds simple, right? We mistake simple for easy, so we fail to take pains to define the big picture clearly, assuming it will take care of itself. Then when we do dive into the details, we either don’t go deep enough, attend to the wrong details, or we forget to keep the surface in sight. Data-driven decision making in the form of thoughtful analytics is a valuable part of  “getting clear,” but we need to sift it through the right big-picture sieve. Our all-too human perceptual biases overlay even “objective” data, which is why every person needs to own this process. As both organizations and individuals we need remove the blinders that prevent us from seeing clearly and be willing to both dig deep and throw our net wide, over and over again.

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