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Navel Gazing
(June 25, 2001) What happens inside a company is called cost. Absolutely no revenue is ever produced within the four corporate walls. Unreasonable amounts of attention applied to written strategy documents, the consequences of reorganization or product improvement debates simply detract from a company's ability to embrace the market. The market is somewhere beyond the four walls.

Surprised by the facts that bank accounts can be empty and customers can be late in paying, far too many of the companies in the industry are busy looking at their navels rather than selling their services. This week's SHRM convention demonstrates the degree to which innovation is missing from the incumbent players. They've been busy on internal things (costs) rather than external things.

It's an astonishingly boring display of lookalike offerings pitched by near-chlidren dressed in lookalike polo shirts and chinos. Chanting the same mantra, "our end to end solution is revolutionary, self-contained, immediate, portable, competitive, accessible because it is so cost-effective, and transportable by any means whatsoever: by land, sea, railroad or air", they seem like moonies headed for a mass wedding. Meanwhile, any conference goer with any sense is making hay in the sweet San Francisco scene. Booth visitors are essentially limited to workers without enough gumption to ditch the impoverished offerings.

While the real question is rapidly becoming "How do you compensate potential candidates for keeping their data current?"; we're confronted with a broad array of database products that simply house decaying information. While "Talent Management" seems to be the buzzword of the new Millenium, we see administrative systems that create noise. With real demographic crises looming, we see lemmings pitching retention programs.

It's as if we'd outsourced all of the thinking in the industry....

It's not that strategy isn't important. Harnessed correctly, strategy is the most important single differentiator amongst various offerings. However, the endless attempt to create massive and detailed strategies with circles , arrows and a note on the back of each illustration describing its place in the scheme of things is usually a thinly veiled attempt to avoid venturing out into the real world.

We subscribe to a notion of strategy called praxis: theory and action integrated while executing. The underlying assumption is that thinking is the critical piece of the process, not just on occasion but as an integral part of managing the business. It's particularly important during economic shifts. Otherwise, the business goes on autopilot, produces nonsense and loses its way."

Monster and Hire.com seem to be the bright spots in the haze. Both companies feature action oriented executive teams, the ability to evolve strategy conversationally and compelling views of the full service provider. Through a series of coherent acquisitions, these two firms have begun to define a real architecture for fully dimensional labor force supply management. Although the hire.com approach is an inch or two ahead (with its emphasis on real time exchanges of information), the Monster juggernaut is nothing if not compelling. (it looks like Hodes may be joining the top group; they've brought back Jeremy Shapiro and launched a compelling product in HodesIQ.)

So, where's everyone else?

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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