Kay on Obliquity

21 03 2010

Just reading John Kay’s latest, “Obliquity: Why our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly”. I bought it on spec, i.e. because of my previous experiences of this economist in person and on the page. So it was a surprise to discover how neatly Kay’s work dovetails with Dan Pink’s “Drive”, which I have also been reading and re-reading recently. (Not to mention Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s work, which is explicitly referenced)

Key message in this respect would be that actual long-term financial success is inversely proportional to the position of financial success in the organisation’s (or individual’s) mission statement. In other words, if making money is your main objective, you are unlikely to achieve it over the long term, whereas if you aim to deliver benefit to customers or excel in your field or whatever, financial success is far more likely to ensue.

I would suggest that the same principle is at work in the field of talent management. Organisations which focus on treating people as resources in their pursuit of shareholder value are less likely to prosper (including in the delivery of shareholder value) than those which focus on getting the best people for their mission and then facilitating their development to achieve their full potential.

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