In early November 2011 I spoke on ways to attract and retain talent to a group of executives in Shanghai organized by the Ivey Alumni Association, Shanghai Chapter and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. This is part 2 of that presentation.
A properly designed management accountability hierarchy
What is a “management accountability hierarchy?” The creator of this concept is Elliot Jaques, who was born in Toronto in 1917 and died in 2003. Dr. Jaques, who graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and earned a Ph.D. in Social Relations from Harvard University, first became well-known for coining the term “mid-life crisis” and later for his breakthrough discovery of the methodology used to measure the complexity of work. He discovered that a person’s capability to solve increasingly complex problems matures through life and that we can forecast it.
I have seen the positive impact of his work at several organizations and I have also applied many of these ideas in my own work. I will try to summarize for you why I think his ideas are relevant to the war for talent.
What Jaques says is that an organization needs is:
The right number of levels of hierarchy,
With the right complexity at each level,
With people at each level who have the required Complexity of Mental Processing capability or CMP at each level.
I will try to illustrate these concepts with a few pictures.
The drawing below is meant to convey an organization with too many levels of management, with the effect that many managers feel “squeezed” by narrow and overlapping accountability. Frustration and ineffectiveness are the result. Often, both managers and non-management staff leave if they are able to escape the dysfunction.
For Jaques, the proper number of management accountability levels creates effectiveness and efficiency through clarity and proper of scope of responsibility.