This post is part inspired by Kevin Keohane's recent post on restructuring comms departments, which I commented on yesterday. However, the thought process was also stimulated by Charles Gancel's presentation at IABC Eurocomm 2008 and the recent post at Cognitive Edge; "Whither the MBA?"
Audrey Scarff highlighted one of Charles Gancel's major points over at the Eurocomm blog:
Charles Gancel says there’s more head hunting going on today because of retiring baby boomers and consequently a senior management shortage. This brings up the need for even better knowledge management, and retention of talent.
1. Take the existing functions and force them to work together holistically, probably by making them report to a single person who gets the “holistic” nature of communications. The problem is, I think these people are pretty rare; most “Heads of Corporate Communications” tend to stick to their functional (or even sometimes channel management) heritage.
Charles Gancel was talking in the context of managers who run departments outside (or spanning beyond) their home country. That kind of internationalism requires a greater flexibility of perspective than a typical management position. He contends that such candidates have never been thick on the ground, but demographics are making them much more difficult to find.
Likewise, Kevin feels that an ideal "Head of Corporate Comms" has a holistic view which is not common amongst candidates who rise through one communication track (e.g. Investor Relations.)
I expressed the view on the day at Eurocomm that this situation is not at all an accident. It seems clear to me that the hiring, training and development of staff concentrates very much on identifying and creating functional experts and ignores the need for flexibility of perspective.
I was reminded to blog about this by the post at Cognitive Edge about the MBA:
Further than an MBA is this day and age seems to be taught content, rather than a masters programme involving a degree of independent thinking. Mind you PhD's also seem these days to be more taught, with a narrow focus using various survey and other type instruments whose validity I and others have challenged. The Mediaeval model why which you engaged in discourse, attended lectures and then presented your ideas to examination by your peers seems to have got lost somewhere along the way in the journey to commoditisation of learning in general. Originality is punished in favour of conformity.
Having done an MBA myself, I have a whole host of observations on them, but that's for another post. However, I think the point "originality is punished in favour of conformity" is the key to understanding why we find ourselves lacking appropriate candidates across a number of sectors. It starts in the hiring processes, where all too often candidates with a true diversity of interests are screened out. Training and development is often focused on a narrow range of technical skills and an interest in wider issues is not encouraged.
How to rectify this? I'll be posting some thoughts about that soon...