Hi-Po Teams – The Future of Talent Management


The world is changing at an accelerated place. Our globalized world is so interconnected now that changes in one corner of the world have unpredictable effects in another corner, like a ripple in a pond. Many of us in the management space call it the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world – a world that is so interconnected and complex that one cannot predict the future or act with certainty. Our organisations are still working with yesterday’s frameworks – strategies that are too linear today, human resource perspectives that render inapplicable and tactics that are too slow-rigid for the VUCA world. In the VUCA world, talent, therefore, will become even more critical; experience, knowledge and information will not be differentiators any more. So what will be?


Today’s organisations, even the pioneers, rely on potential identification and development based talent management. The assumption is that about 5% employees of most organisations have the potential/talent necessary to take on critical roles, and this potential, need not necessarily come from the celebrated top performers. This pool of scarce talent is identified and nurtured intensively. This practice, over 4 decades old, works, or at least has worked well till now.



But, in the future, the basic assumptions will not hold true. Individuals will not be able to take up critical roles or perhaps criticality of roles will change faster than one could plan or prepare for. Individuals, today, are valued for their experience, knowledge and skills. In the VUCA world, what worked yesterday will not work in the future. We already know this as we see the correlations between CEO experience and CEO performance drop decade on decade. The VUCA world will be so complex that one person could neither have all knowledge necessary, nor would be able to process so much information that will be necessary to come to viable conclusions. Also, the VUCA world will require so few repetitions that skills will either rarely develop or will lose value quicker than expected. So, what then?



We can try to imagine how the organisations will evolve in future. The VUCA organisation will move from critical roles to critical projects, from critical Hi-Po individuals to critical Hi-Po teams. Teams will allow projects to use large variety of experiences, skillsets and different ways of thinking necessary to conclude projects successfully. The Hi-Po teams would be teams that work well together like an agile and adaptive mini-organisation, well connected to the business environment and extremely responsive. We can guess that the Hi-Po teams will need individuals who by themselves may not be extraordinary, but can play extraordinarily-well in their teams. While the Hi-Po individual needs effective leadership of others, Hi-Po teams will exercise self-leadership and self-organisation to an exponential extent. But Hi-Po teams will still be made of individuals. What can we say about these individuals?



Working in Hi-Po teams would require four key differentiating qualities from employees:


  • Ability to learn and unlearn, comprehensively and quickly
  • Deep specialist expertise along with a strong, broad foundational domain knowledge
  • Ability to monitor, manage and control own emotions and behaviours
  • Ability to work in teams



Getting ready for the Hi-Po teams requires organisations to re-imagine talent, organisational structures and job designs. Most of all, organizations will need to revisit leadership and cultural practices. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. In a VUCA world, we need teams that thrive on complexity and volatility. We need distributed leadership, self-organization and diversity in ways of thinking. The future of talent management is, in all probability, a new kind of organisation.


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