Mark McDonald

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Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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The most important thing in your company is not a thing

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 1, 2010  |  4 Comments

It’s a person and your people.

“People are our most important … (asset, resource, strategy, etc)” This is one of the more familiar phrase executives and managers will say, particularly in light of the past year when people, their ideas and their personal sacrifices contributed so much to company survival.  2009 was a year where your people made the year as customer demand fell, bankers tightened credit and the economy contracted.

People are more than the most important asset/resource/etc – they are the source of current operational performance and future competitive advantage for the following simple reasons:

It’s a person and your people.

“People are our most important … (asset, resource, strategy, etc)” This is one of the more familiar phrase executives and managers will say, particularly in light of the past year when people, their ideas and their personal sacrifices contributed so much to company survival.  2009 was a year where your people made the year as customer demand fell, bankers tightened credit and the economy contracted.

People are more than the most important asset/resource/etc – they are the source of current operational performance and future competitive advantage for the following simple reasons:

People get things done.  When I was a commercial lender one of my customers told me, “you know mark, people write checks” meaning that people made the decision if you were going to get paid, not a computer system, nor the terms on a piece of paper.

People are adaptable. Despite what management guru’s say, people do change and they are the most adaptable resource a company relies upon, particularly in IT.  Don’t believe me, then just go into your server room and ask the hardware to be more adaptive!

People have the knowledge and ideas you need. Innovation and improvement come from people and their insight, knowledge and experience.  Your people are closest to your operational problems, they know where best to cut costs, where the value really is in your operations.  Too often we pay lip service to their knowledge with the corporate ‘feel good’ suggestion box rather than listening and acting on their knowledge and insight.

People make sacrifices. People can see, believe and sacrifice for the future where your customers, suppliers and executives can only see the short term.  Many organization’s asked their people last year to freeze salaries, accept lower benefits and work harder for the good of the company – and people responded while others took advantage of the situation.

So what? Isn’t this all stating the obvious to the point that its become a cliché?  The cynic would say that such statements are a prelude to large executive bonuses, layoffs or plant closings and while they may be correct that does not make it right.

During the past year we have asked a lot from the people we know at work, at home and in the community.  By in large we and the people we know have responded with courage, heart, intelligence and collaboration.

Now is the time, after the holidays and during the darkest part of winter to turn around and recognize, thank, welcome and acknowledge the people who have made the past year as tolerable as possible.

Chances are that they will not expect it, but they deserve it.  They will recognize that you are giving them your most important resource – your time, your attention and your heartfelt emotion – all of which are your most important asset, resource, strategy, etc.

So what? Isn’t this all stating the obvious to the point that its become a cliché?  The cynic would say that such statements are a prelude to large executive bonuses, layoffs or plant closings and whiel they may be correct that does not make it right.

During the past year we have asked a lot from the people we know at work, at home and in the community.  By in large we and the people we know have responded with courage, heart, intelligence and collaboration.

Now is the time, after the holidays and during the darkest part of winter to turn around and recognize, thank, welcome and acknowledge the people who have made the past year as tolerable as possible.

Chances are that they will not expect it, but they deserve it.  They will recognize that you are giving them your most important resource – your time, your attention and your heartfelt emotion – all of which are your most important asset, resource, strategy, etc.

4 Comments »

Category: 2010 Leadership     Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Willie Appel   February 2, 2010 at 6:36 am

    I cannot agree more, here are some of my questions that most leaders do not want to answer:

    1. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we generally compromise that asset for short-term fiscal gain?
    2. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we see evidence that organizations world-wide are struggling to meet production and service demands knowing that these outcomes are directly dependent on the ability, commitment and skill of our workforce that is predominatly disengaged – Gallup says 29% of employees are motivated – so what is happening to the other 71%?
    3. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we not show them that their opinions count?
    4. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we not invest more in oppotunties for them to learn and grow?
    5. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we generally compromise that asset for short-term fiscal gain?
    6. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we struggle to give them recognition or praise for doing good work?

    and lastly …

    7. If people are the most valuable asset of an organisation, why do we not invest in creating opportunties for them to what they do best everyday?

  • 2 Links for February 7 2010   February 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm

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  • 3 Charles H. Green   February 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    If people are our most important asset, why do you insist on de-humanizing them by converting them to adjectives in a finance-centric way of thinking?
    Human capital (not which is the adjective)
    Return on human capital (self-explanatory).

    If people are our most important asset, why aren’t we talking about people return on financial investment?

  • 4 Charles H. Green   February 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    (I meant why do ‘we’ insist on de-humanizing, not ‘you’ as in the author of the post).