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John Sumser

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The Core

15, 2004) - According to Kleiner's Law,

Every organization always operates on behalf of the perceived needs and priorities of some core group of key people. This purpose will trump every other organizational loyalty, including those to shareholders, employees, customers, and other constituents.
- The World Question Center, Edge, Art Kleiner

We all know it's true. Underneath the rhetoric about customers, shareholders and employees lies a stark organizational reality. There is a group at the center of every organization that is the beating heart and mind. Their wishes and beliefs are the direction of the operation. Internal politics all boil down to satisfying them. Rational decision makers need not apply or, if they do, they must be willing to conform to the atmospheric group think.

So goes the central premise of Art Kleiner's essential new book: Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Success. In some ways, the work is the answer to questions raised in Kleiner's earlier tome The Age of Heretics: Heroes, Outlaws, and the Forerunners of Corporate Change. Why do our institutions require outlying thinkers? Because there is a core group at the heart of the business.

A key collaborator with Peter Senge (of 5th Discipline Fame), Kleiner has investigated the innards of a huge number of businesses. Time and again he came away knowing that there was an incongruity between rational decision making and the behavior of the entity. The result is this delicious new book that looks at management as it is rather than the more traditional view of the way things should be.

Success within an organization is a function of being perceived as either important to or effective for this core group. Professional excellence, the performance of specific duties and/or effectiveness in any other terms are matters of personal fulfillment. Longevity is acquired through utility or importance to the core group. Period. 

Forget the 'career coaching' and 'development' rhetoric.

If you want to know a key reason for ATS installation failures, alignment with the ambitions and desires of the core group has got to be number one. The group's ambitions may or may not align directly with stated missions or objectives. We've never seen an ATS that even attempts to factor in this essential political reality.

Recruiting for additional members of the core or their replacements is a very sophisticated enterprise that is rarely left to the HR team. We'll look at some of the ins and outs of this critical workforce decision making process tomorrow.

John Sumser

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