Why Don’t the Pieces Fit?

French 75.jpg

French 75

In a shaker with ice add the juice of one half lemon, one tablespoon of blue agave, and 2 oz Uncle Vals Botanical Gin. Shake well to dissolve agave. Pour into champagne glass (not flute) and top off with a dry champagne. Add twist of lemon zest, if you like.

There are numerous varieties of gin in the world, each with its own flavor profile. Some have strong cucumber notes, others have a citrusy profile, a few taste like a provincial French garden, and some, well, some are food grade floor cleaner. Knowing how you will use the gin will help you select the gin. What’s true for the bar is true for HR.

For every position, there are dozens of candidates with the knowledge and experience, but each brings a different profile. The key to finding the right fit in your organizational cocktail is clearly defining your needs. I’m not talking about finding somebody who has experience performing the tasks that are currently being left undone. We hire on skills, fire on behavior. I’m talking about needs on a more existential scale.

Simon Sinek explains that great leaders inspire others to take action because they know what their purpose is and can define it not by what they do or even how they do it, but why.[1] In his book, he clarifies the difference between Apple and “not Apple” in the tech world. What they all do is the same, but can we clearly define WHY Dell, Samsung, IBM, Sony, and the others are in business? Not as easily as we can explain Apple’s raison d’être. No doubt, when Apple looks to hire people, they’re not looking very hard at the skill set—most of that can be taught—but why this person does what (s)he does.

Sinek’s observation isn’t exactly novel. Asking why is one of the fundamental tenets of Sakichi Toyoda’s Toyota Production System. In it, he implores that finding a root cause or defect requires five “why” questions. Curiously, though we apply that level of scrutiny to our products and processes, we seldom do with our management philosophy. For example, why do I do HR? To make money is an easy answer, but I could also make money milking my back injury and selling my oxycodone prescription on the street, so money is a nice side-effect, but it’s not why I pursue HR. Perhaps it’s to help people, but why would I want to do that? I won’t go further, but you see my point. Once you’ve clarified your “why,” you can start asking candidates why they’re pursuing this job with this organization and truly drill down. You can find out if your whys align and, even if the “how’s” don’t, and please don’t hire only those whose “how’s” align, so long as your “why’s” do, you’ll progress in the right direction.

There are plenty of “why” questions that senior management should ask themselves. Good starting points include:

  • Why are we in business?
  • Why is [your value here] a core value?
  • Why do we have a high turnover rate?
  • Why are gross profits increasing while operation profits are stagnant?

Consider these and come up with four “why” follow-up questions.

[1] Simon Sinek. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Others to Take Action. Penguin Group. 2009

One thought on “Why Don’t the Pieces Fit?

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