Welcome to State Parkway Partners

Our Mission

State Parkway Partners shows clients how to manage talent strategically. We focus first on Learning & Development (L&D) and show you how to operate at a strategic level and make yourself accountable for measurable results by systematically implementing our A2B (Aligned-to-Business)  methodology to identify, prioritize, and manage your L&D investments. Once your have the methodology in place in L&D, you will be able to expand the application of A2B and integrate all of your talent management initiatives in an actively managed portfolio of talent investments.

We have published the A2B methodology as a detailed how-to guide titled The CEO’s Talent Manifesto: Align Talent Investments to Achieve Targeted Results available at Amazon.com. Click the cover to go to the book on Amazon.

The CEO's Talent Manifesto

The PwC 2014 US CEO Survey, January 2014 notes that “US CEOs are reinventing operations to remain fit today and relevant tomorrow…In remaking their organizations, CEOs are moving away from locked-in rigid structures of the past toward more nimble operations. The goal is to make their businesses adept at harnessing disruptions, and building capabilities that can quickly respond to opportunities and threats as they arise, while keeping a handle on costs and risks…But there’s more at work here. New business models that companies are contemplating require talent with different skills than the ones they currently have…CEOs are very focused on ensuring that the skills are in place – or will be in place – to capitalize on investments they are making into mobile technologies, data analytics, and other strategic capabilities.”

The DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015 reports that “For at least two decades, the challenge for HR was to move from being administrators or reactors to being business partners. HR units worldwide have made that shift…It’s now time to raise the bar for HR, to take on a new role we call “anticipator.” Anticipators are always looking for what might come next. They work with the business to predict future talent gaps, and then strive to close the gap…fewer than 2 in 10 HR professionals place themselves in the anticipator category…We also examined when HR gets involved in the strategic planning process…anticipators are far more likely than their partner or reactor counterparts to be part of their organization’s strategic planning process…Yet, only one in four HR respondents reported participating early in strategic planning. The other three were not involved or were asked to develop talent plans after the strategic planning process.”

So, if you are working to reinvent your L&D function and talent management processes to operate at the strategic level and move at a real-time pace with the rest of the business, we can show you how to:

  • achieve alignment among business strategies, operating objectives, the processes that drive the strategies, the measures of performance needed to achieve objectives, and the L&D and other talent initiatives that enable people to deliver the performance required
  • identify talent investment opportunities, analyze the opportunities, define targeted results, and organize and manage them as a prioritized portfolio of investments, quarter after quarter, year after year
  • balance strategic and operational requirements as well as short and long term requirements
  • implement the necessary roles, responsibilities, and governance processes that make this all happen
  • demonstrate accountability for targeted performance achievement
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The CEO's Talent Manifesto: Align Talent Investments to Achieve Targeted Results

Chip Cleary and I have co-authored a comprehensive and practical "how to" book, The CEO's Talent Manifesto: Align Talent Investments to Achieve Targeted Results (available at Amazon), that should enable Chief Human Resource Officers, Chief Talent Officers, and Chief Learning Officers to manage their companies' talent investments strategically. We want to thank Ed Trolley, co-author of the 1999 best selling book Running Training Like a Business for writing the Forward. He did such a great job describing the book and putting its value in context that I have quoted it verbatim below.

"In 1999, we wrote in Running Training Like A Business that “many business leaders say that T&D remains ‘out of the loop’ strategically, that it too often operates like ‘something separate from the business,’ and that they don’t see enough tangible returns on their T&D investment.” We also wrote that executives see a widening gap between the skills and knowledge that businesses require and those that the workforce can offer. In 2012, the fifteenth annual Price-Waterhouse Coopers Global CEO Survey stated that:
• 25 percent of CEOs have cancelled an initiative because
they did not have the talent they required;
• 33 percent were unable to pursue a market opportunity;
• 70 percent were less than “very confident” that they had
the talent they required.

It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. Has there ever been a clearer mandate for Learning & Development (L&D) than now? I think not! And so, Chip Cleary and Tom Hilgart define the CEO’s Talent Manifesto as the new “marching orders” for L&D.

The authors are hot on the trail of the “holy grail” of L&D in this new and exciting book. Alignment to Business, or A2B, as it is referred to in the book, has been and continues to be the most elusive and most critical element of L&D. It is the beginning of the beginning, and without it, everything else is pretty much irrelevant. The authors say, “The most pressing issue that is faced by most L&D organizations is not whether they have the right guns to fire but rather whether they know just where to point them.” We can design and develop the best training ever created, and we can deliver it with the best instructors and/or the best technology in the best format. But…if it is not on something important to the business, business executives are not happy—and they shouldn’t be. Making investments in learning and development has to deliver the same level of business value that investments in R&D, marketing, sales, manufacturing and service deliver; otherwise, business executives place their investment bets in areas other than L&D and the problems defined in the PWC survey will continue on.

In this book, Chip and Tom have put forth the “Aligned-to-Business Methodology,” which provides a set of models and introduces some key new concepts, processes, and tools for L&D, including:
• Portfolio of Investments
• Value-Added Matrix
• Ability-to-Execute Alignment Framework including
ºº Ability-to-Execute Scan
ºº Ability-to-Execute Analysis
ºº Ability-to-Execute Map
• “Walking the beat” to keep abreast of the business
• Key Players
• Following learning investments through a full lifecycle,
including chartering, chaperoning execution, and closing
the loop.

All of these make up the “how-to” of ensuring that the work of L&D is aligned to the business and is delivering measurable value when and where the business requires it.

The authors have also defined a role they call business engagement manager (BEM) to enable the A2B process. The primary job of the BEM is to help business leaders make the right investments to create and manage learning portfolios that generate demonstrated results. I really like that they define BEMs as investment managers whose goal is to enable the business to generate results through investments in learning. And therefore, this role serves as the key interface between the business and L&D. BEMs are business people in learning, and as such, they must think business first and then define ways in which learning can enable business goals. The key measure of success for BEMs is how much business value their learning portfolios produce for the business they serve. This is a great impact-producing role for L&D!

Back in 1999, we discussed the critical importance of A2B as the first step in what we called the Value Creation Process, and we asserted that many, if not most, organizations had not figured out how to do it in a way that ensures delivery of measurable value to the business. In 2013, as an industry, we are still trying to figure it out, and that is why this book is so important to the industry and to the people of L&D.

L&D organizations will be wise to make this book required reading for all of their staff. If they do and if they establish the BEM role and execute as described in this book, we will certainly move L&D “from the backroom to the boardroom.”

Thanks, Chip and Tom. Well done!"
Edward Trolley
Co-author, Running Training Like a Business

For more information and to help you implement the A2B Methodology, we provide an A2B "toolbox" at www.aligned-to-business.com. In addition to information about A2B, this site provides templates, formats, guides, and documents for all of the A2B elements described in the book.

You can also purchase the book at Amazon.

Leave a Comment | Thursday, July 11th 2013 by Tom Hilgart

Performance Management Needs The Accountability Principle

My last two posts have been about managing performance through The Accountability Principle. It would be helpful - but not absolutely necessary - to read them before this post: Accountability - The Key to Performance Management posted April 29th and The Accountability Principle and Engagement posted April 30th.The antithesis of The Accountability Principle is The No-Nonsense School of Accountability. No-Nonsenseers have advocated performance management as it has been practiced at least since the 1960s. Managers give clear expectations up front, a thorough performance appraisal at the end, and regular feedback, maybe even some coaching, in between. If someone's really off track, managers confront that right away. For top performers, there are rewards and recognition along the way. For poor performers, there is progressive discipline. For the rest, well, they have their pay checks and get to keep their jobs. What could be clearer and fairer and more motivating? The reality is that performance management is a fiction for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of businesses.

The beginning of the process - clear expectations or objectives and measures - often never happens except in general terms. When it does, it is seldom sustained because it is too difficult and time consuming to resolve all the questions that more systematic approaches call for:

Are these the right things to do to make the strategy successful? What's actually being measured? Is that the right thing to measure? How accurate are the measures? How timely are the measures? Is the goal even achievable? What if unexpected forces make the goal either too easy or unattainable? What about all the things people do that are not measured but are critical to keeping everything running, how are these accounted for?

The middle of the process - performance feedback, and maybe coaching - seldom gets done because of the complexities of the business and the environment in which it operates.
Ambiguity delays judgment. Communication struggles with interpretation, completeness, and timeliness. Collaboration falters under the pressure of adversarial motives and contending views. New knowledge emerges that changes the playing field. Priorities change frequently and occasionally radically. Resources are reduced or diverted to meet new objectives. The measures chosen turn out not to achieve the real goal. Important aspects of the business are neglected to the detriment of the business in order to "make the numbers".

The one piece of the process that eventually does get done is the performance review. But, this is usually viewed by both parties as an administrative requirement. There is very little accountability in this annual event because the beginning and middle parts of the process either have never happened or were pro forma or occasional at best.
Often expectations or objectives are written down for the first time when the performance review is due, and the past year is recollected from whatever reports or memory is available. Some organizations have feedback collected from people affected by an individual's performance. But the biases of memory and the power of emotion and personal perspective make useful, accurate evaluation rare. Managers regularly pick the "rating" they "feel" is right and write the narrative to support the rating. In any case, the best that this process produces is a point-in-time judgement that usually has some marginal effect on the expected rewards.

The reality of managing a business is that there are no clear beginnings or endings. We estimate various measures and the forces that will impact them; but none of this is science, and all of it is affected by new knowledge that regularly is discovered about the past, present, and future. Priorities change, resources are redirected. We arbitrarily evaluate results quarterly and annually. But the goals we project, the measures we set, and the data we collect are very often not in one-to-one alignment and have only an approximate relationship to one another. While goals are essential to frame expectations, develop plans, and calibrate the actions we need to take, few, if any, bear a readily assessable relationship to the clear meting out of rewards and punishments the No-Nonsense School of accountability advocates as the driver of performance.

No-Nonsense performance management is a relic of industrial organization and a command-and-control system of management. No-Nonsense performance management should be replaced by The Accountability Principle.

Leave a Comment | Friday, May 2nd 2008 by Tom Hilgart

The Accountability Principle and Engagement

Accountability is a very weighty and quite personal concept. It is burdensome and liberating at the same time. The accounting it calls for is a first person accounting, not a disinterested bystander's report. Accountability obliges the person in charge to tell her own story. And in the telling, she is expected to know clearly what she is trying to accomplish and why that's important in the larger scheme of things. Starting with the results her actions have produced so far, she is expected to go deeper and give her analysis of what accounts for those results: what forces are at play and what she has done to manage those forces; where there are shortfalls or overruns and what she's done to overcome their causes. She is expected to demonstrate that she is monitoring and evaluating what is going on all along the way: exercising judgment, seeking counsel, soliciting help and making adjustments to overcome unforeseen obstacles and to compensate for unintended consequences.

Interestingly, the rewards and losses associated with being an accountable person are many; and they are experienced every day, not just at the end of a project, or a quarter, or a year. That final payoff or loss is critically important because it affects a person's possibilities - his future and his broader life beyond this job. It affects both reputation and wealth and, therefore, expands or contracts the horizons of his life - the things he can do and the interests he can explore. But, accountability is also an intensely emotional thing. A person experiences accountability as an energy welled up within him. He feels the pressure of that point in time when he'll have to tell the story of what he's done. He wants the story to be a good one, the story of a hero overcoming daunting forces. His awareness expands to take in everything affecting his goals and becomes keenly alert to threats and opportunities, with a hunger for all sorts of situational information. He feels concerned about other people: do they know their responsibilities and are they all doing their parts. He feels concerned for other people: how are they feeling about what they're doing and how are they holding up when the pressure is on. He feels worried about resources: are there enough and are they being used well. His mind is a flow of checklist questions. Have all the right communications been made? Are all the parts of the job getting done? Are the customers satisfied? Will we meet our objectives? The accountable person experiences the emotional rewards and losses that are evoked by the multitude of step-by-step successes and failures as he carries out his mission. In fact, this is a major reason why the accountable person seeks out accountable jobs - to experience himself handling all of the challenges presented by the quest for some specific measure of success, important to himself and others. This experience of handling a myriad of challenges - sometimes not so successfully, but then recovering and learning for the next time - is as important to a person's internal possibilities as the final financial and reputational rewards are to his external possibilities. It is in the day-to-day tests that a person comes to know his own internal horizons - his current and expanding capabilities.

So, accountability is a simple yet exceedingly powerful concept when used systematically throughout a business.

  • It becomes the motive for people to achieve and maintain a big picture view - what are we trying to accomplish and how do all the parts fit together to make that happen.

  • It becomes the motive for measurement of progress and results - how can you evaluate the situation without measures?

  • It becomes the motive to develop and implement constructive changes in order to tell a story of success.

  • It funnels all of the wisdom in the business to the transaction level as each person is in turn accountable to another.

  • It becomes the network of conversations that drive the ongoing modification of strategy and redesign of processes to better pursue the overarching objective.

Leave a Comment | Wednesday, April 30th 2008 by Tom Hilgart

Accountability: The Key to Performance Management

What do we mean by "accountability?" Today, when you hear people talk about accountability, you know that they're talking about who's going to pay the price of failure. They say, "I'm holding you accountable"; or "You better make sure someone's accountable"; or "Make them accountable by tying those results to their incentive compensation."

"Holding people accountable" has a hard-nosed, no-nonsense tone that lets people know that a real executive is in the room. It projects strength and a willingness to take action. It asserts that a clear threat of dire consequences is what will get people focused and performing. It calls for bottom-line measures and makes it clear that there will be no excuses for not achieving them. After all, what would accountability mean if people could avoid paying the price of poor performance by explaining it away?

This is, however, not the way accountability gets results. In the day-to-day activities of business, where all the work gets done, "hold them accountable" is useless as a management practice. It offers no guidance on how to use accountability to build a successful path from point A to point B. It just prescribes what to do with rewards and punishments when the clock runs out. It offers no process for reconciling competing objectives, for making sure bad decisions are not made just to make "the numbers" look good. It makes no provision for adapting to changing business conditions, taking advantage of opportunities, or responding to unforeseen threats. "Hold them accountable" hopes that fear of loss will make people perform. But "hope is not a method" (Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope is Not a Method (New York: Broadway Books, 1997). The Accountability Principle is!

The Accountability Principle

"For any job, no matter how simple or complex, effectiveness will be proportional to the ability of people doing that job to explain what they are seeking to achieve, why that's important to the business, how well they are doing and what's causing their current level of accomplishment, and what needs to be different to fully achieve their purpose."

Accountability fuels the engine of performance. It puts a fine edge on execution. It replaces the administrative rituals of performance management with engagement in the business and commitment to results. It fills the void of performance-focused communication with precise and continuing conversations about accomplishments and opportunities as well as about shortfalls and what needs to be done to overcome them. Accountability puts talent in the spotlight and exposes and corrects talent gaps early on.

The practice of "accountability" means that every person - either as an individual contributor or as a manager - is expected to "provide a periodic accounting" to someone - team leader, manager, board of directors, owner - about the results of what she is doing. The key questions to account for are:

  • Are the business activities for which she is responsible achieving planned results or not?

  • If they are, then what is driving that success and what needs to be done to sustain performance? Are there opportunities emerging and how can we take advantage of them?

  • If they are not, then what are the root causes of the shortfall and what is she doing to remedy them? Are there threats emerging and how can we defend against them?

This use of The Accountability Principle moves the moment of truth way forward. By asking people to be accountable first for a well constructed plan and then regularly for accomplishing planned activities and producing planned results. The Accountability Principle improves the quality of business thinking and sharpens the focus on results from everybody beginning day one. Accountability establishes a regular dialogue so the person to whom the accounting is provided should be expected to

  • ask questions to see if something has been overlooked

  • provide information that will help solve a problem

  • share a perspective that will shape more accurate thinking about a situation

  • give encouragement where courage is needed

  • stop a direction that will impede success

  • obtain needed resources

  • secure the support of others

Simply put, accountability is about two things: collaboration and engagement. Your thoughts?

More about this tomorrow.

Leave a Comment | Tuesday, April 29th 2008 by Tom Hilgart

Developing a "Talent As An Asset" Mindset

In a big-picture view, human capital management is the process of making sure you have the right people, with the right competencies, in the right roles now and in the future. To be effective at human capital management, leaders at every level of the organization need to treat talent as an asset that produces value for the organization today and which can produce more or different value in the future. Unlike other organizational assets, talent belongs to the people in the business and not to the owners of the business. So, leaders have to embrace the challenge of engaging people in ways that cause them to invest their best abilities in the business, to improve the productivity of their talents over time, and to acquire new competencies that they enjoy and that the business needs. When recruiting and hiring, leaders need to assess candidates not only for the job that is open but for the broader role they could play and the more valuable contributions they could make over time.Much of our future leadership training and leader development will have to revolve around a full appreciation of the fact that talent is an asset that belongs to someone else yet accounts for a substantial portion of the current and future market value of the business. What percentage of your business's market value is attributable to physical assets? What are your talent assets worth? What do you need to do about that?

A big part of human capital management will be:

  • providing the networks, job assignments, project assignments, and coaching that develop the conceptual thinking skills, problem solving skills, and interpersonal skills leaders need to engage people

  • implementing practices and processes that cascade through the organization to make a "talent as an asset" mindset part of the organization's DNA

  • expecting leaders at every level to provide a regular accounting of the increased productivity of the talent assets for which they have leadership responsibility

Although it has always been true, it is even moreso today: the future is invading the present at an accelerating rate. There is no such thing as a sustainable competitive advantage. So, we need to shake up and speed up the present to be able to sustain our ability to find new advantages with which to compete in the future.

Leave a Comment | Thursday, April 24th 2008 by Tom Hilgart

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