Managing Talent: The Complete Process

I am an avid follower of good practices developed by companies like Toyota. My belief in these has further strengthened after my visit to Japan for a program sponsored by Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Japan through AOTS. Here I got an opportunity to visit the main Toyota Plant and their R&D Centre.

I was reading the book titled ‘Toyota Talent’ written by Jeffrey K. Liker and David P. Meier. I gained more clarity that Toyota has world class systems and processes, of which some of them are the best. To cite few examples:

• Toyota Production System

• Toyota Talent Development Programme

The reason I quote my learning from this book is because Toyota’s phenomenal success is a business story world over and no other company has been able to completely duplicate its success. The answer to how Toyota has managed to maintain its success through good and bad times is simple: great people surrounded by a system that mandates the need for such talent.

Understanding this is a great learning experience for all those companies who want to maximize their growth. It is the knowledge and capability of people that distinguishes any company from another. For the most part, organizations have access to the same technology, machinery, raw materials, and even the same pool of potential employees.

No organization can blindly duplicate any other organization’s success by merely imitating its techniques. We cannot forget the importance of relationships and culture. People tend to imitate the technique originated elsewhere but fail to live in the fundamental state of leadership as the people who originated the technique. The techniques are valuable, but people cannot learn to make them work if they are not challenged and supported in the process of learning how to make them work. So the gist of the scene today is that many organizations want to copy the outward appearance of what companies like Toyota are, without pursuing the much harder and time-consuming aspect of changing their own behavior to replicate Toyota’s culture and infrastructure

The main reason for the stunted growth of companies today is the ignorance towards cultivation of talent. Talent needs to be cultivated and developed. Simply adopting and implementing methods such as 5S standardized work, Kanban, Kaizen, visual factory etc, will never get you the complete positive results if you do not understand them fully and adapt them to your own needs. A system needs to be developed from the given methods available and the ability to mould them to your own requirements.

The system requires highly capable people to maintain and continuously improve it. The purpose of increased performance and increased capability of people should not be allowed to get lost in the process of imitating and installing methods without the appropriate development of skills and abilities. The concept is simple to understand but difficult to implement. It requires a dedication to personal change and to the realization that only through facing hardships and adversities will the true benefits be achieved.

Toyota’s method of Training Within Industry (TWI) is a nifty approach to development within the organization. This includes a method of training called Job Instruction training method. In this, the given job is broken down into little pieces. Each element of the job is taught in a detailed manner, the teacher demonstrating and the student observing, practicing and finally mastering the element. The little pieces are then put back together as the whole job. This process takes place on the job, in a collaborative learning environment, and it follows Deming’s preaching that we must plan, do, check and then take further action (Method developed by Quality guru Deming i.e. PDCA).

Organizations must learn to identify the critical knowledge in the work place and transfer this effectively. The acquisition and transfer of knowledge is the only way for people to expand their capabilities and thus improve the performance of the company. It is essential to place importance on the means rather than the end, implying you should be process-oriented not result-oriented. Making things should be about making people. You cannot separate people development from production system development if you want to succeed in the long run.

An organization should pledge to its employees to help them develop the skills to be successful and develop people to their highest potential. People live in fear of under-performance and do not spontaneously learn to be top performers. Hence it is essential that you create an environment where hardworking people will thrive and lazy workers will either jump off or get thrown off the bus. The expectations should be high, people should be given the necessary tools and support and the choice to either get on or get off the bus.

Hence developing talent is a complete process. It requires an integrated approach which addresses the following areas:

• Acquiring Talent

• Assessing New and Current Talent

• Developing Talent and Transitioning Talent through continuous education and developmental


• Engaging Talent on a continuous basis

• Finally Retaining Talent with long term career goals, perspective and appropriate reward


Top management, especially the CEO of the company should be fully committed for such a programme. Immediate boss & company’s senior management team can play the role of coach and mentor to its employees. Therefore boss and subordinate relationship is important.

Talent management programme should be strategic not tactical. Focused training and skill development programme can be made a strong tool for employee benefit. It is relatively easier to recruit and develop skills required for a job and make the employee work and perform; but it is difficult to develop the same employee as a ‘Talent’ and make the person not only perform but also contribute through better engagement.

Talented people are a breed apart, with strong values and high levels of motivation. They are superior performers and do things more efficiently than others. They believe in challenges and can deal with them more effectively.

Today’s economy and working environment demand the need of such talented individuals to run an organization successfully.  In these times of globalization and the speed with which things are changing and technology is booming, one needs to develop himself/herself to his/her fullest potential to cope with the increasing diversity in work forces.

I conclude by mentioning a quote by Janice McCormack, Professor at Harvard Business School, “Top-notch talent today should be someone having the vision of an architect, the theoretical mindset of a physicist, the attention to detail of an engineer and the financial acumen of an investment banker.”

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