The People Side of Business
Kevin Holland pointed to an interview in the New York Times with Eduardo Castro-Wright, who is Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart. Castro-wright was somewhat critical of the status quo in the business world, including taking shots at vision statements, off-site retreats, and traditional business school curriculum.
On the business school side, he argues that they teach lots of courses about accounting, finance, strategy, and operations, but not so much on teaching people how to deal with real problems, like an employee who tells you that his marriage issues are affecting his work performance. Castro-Wright said:
This statement probably works for every advanced degree. Every profession spends a lot of time training for the profession, but very few teach us how to deal with each other as people. Why? I imagine the people who created these advanced degrees assumed (a) dealing with each other as people doesn't drive the professional results we expect, or (b) they are important but it's not our degree program's responsibility to teach them; you learn those things elsewhere.
The (a) answer is becoming more obviously false these days. We're squeezing efficiency out of everything, and I think we'll find more and more that improving the human side of organizations will start to generate relatively more productivity as compared to what we can get out of process, or technology, or equipment. And the (b) answer just isn't true–we're not taught these things. At least not to the degree we need to be. We learn high-level lessons from a variety of contexts, but these are not enough to produce results at work. We are taught that trust is good and micro managing is bad, but we don't REALLY know how to apply these ideas. They are complex and nuanced.
I think the most competitive organizations are going to be the ones who figure out how to build on-the-job learning programs focused on the people side of organizations.