Few things are more frustrating that getting promoted past the point of one's calling, and then being fired for not cutting it. Such tragedy is preventable, but it happens way too often, usually when people get promoted in organizations that don't practice strategic alignment.
I started using the term strategic alignment 20+ years ago to describe how organizations needed to align all hiring, promotion, and training efforts with their overall strategy and objectives. (Looking back, I wish I had copyrighted the term, because nowadays a lot of people are using it!)
To be strategically aligned means all efforts support an overarching mission. It means clear vision and mission statements are known, understood, and supported by all. And, each department, each team, and each team member is aware of how the efforts of that department, team, or person contribute to the mission and vision.
In organizations that are strategically aligned, a clear job description is produced for every job whenever a position is created. Each job description is checked to ensure that the work of that position fulfills a needed effort to move the organization in the direction of its mission and vision.
Strategic Alignment also means that whoever is selected to fill a position is assessed for either having the necessary skills or is capable of learning those skills.
There's more to strategic alignment, but I think it's unwise for people to be promoted to positions for which they are either unqualified or untrained. And, I think it's a tragedy when the companies who make mistakes in their promotion process end up firing the people they promoted when those people don't work out in their new positions.
Such was the case this past week when I heard about a senior manager who was let go after being promoted into the position less than a year ago.
When I learned about the dismissal I asked a series of questions, all in keeping with the philosophy of strategic alignment:
Q.Did he receive training for the position?
A.Yes. Several years of it!
Q.Great. Please tell me about the training.
A.He was assigned a mentor who answered his questions about the position.
Q.Who came up with the questions?
A.The person shadowing an experienced senior manager asks questions when he doesn't know something. He knows himself best. He knows what he needs to learn.
Q.He does? How?
I won't go into the song and dance I received for a reply, because by now it should be obvious the organization did not have a clear-cut plan for equipping their senior-manager-in-training with the skills needed for the position.
It might be argued that a person being promoted to a senior management position should be able to figure out what's needed. I would reply that regardless of a person's level, strategically aligned training is needed.
Think about astronauts. These are smart cookies - top in their field. Yet each one of them, upon being selected for the astronaut program, undergoes a rigorous, strategically aligned training program to prepare them for the position. Mission-critical skills are identified and each astronaut is trained for those skills. No exceptions.
Unfortunately, what we see too often in Corporate America (and around the world) is people being promoted to a point above their calling. The belief that people must continually seek promotion or be thought of as has-beens is misguided.
Many people fail because they seek a position that puts them in over their heads. Or, as I've just pointed out, failure can also be the organization's fault for not providing sufficient training. In many cases, people wind up disgraced and terminated because of a combination of the two.
This begs the question, how can organizations avoid such tragedy? As I wrote in Creating Passion-Driven Teams, the only skill that enables a person to succeed at any level is the ability to learn. Each level in an organization requires skills not required at the previous level, and if a person cannot learn those skills—or does not have capacity to learn them—then success at a higher level is not likely.
To be strategically aligned, organizations must acknowledge this. They must also place a high priority on creating appropriate job descriptions and developing training that equips people with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to succeed in those positions.
I agree that the process of doing that is not efficient, but it's darned effective. And companies that don't balance efficiency with effectiveness are usually struggling. That, and they're creating situations that lead otherwise excellent and valuable employees to fail. You know it's not what those companies want, but it's what many tragically do.
So please. Get strategically aligned. There's no reason to take otherwise valuable employees and set them up to bite the dust.