Selecting for the future:
making choices when you are
not certain what you want
As the last chapter made clear, the strategy of commitment to people makes choosing them of paramount importance. They are joining for tomorrow as well as today and so the organization needs to satisfy itself that they match the requirements of the longer time frame as well as for the immediate future. When organizations want someone to join the talent pool, they need to find someone who will meet two targets. First, they will make an immediate contribution; second, they will have a continuing impact. If the organization wants the person to join the high potential group, a third target must be added. It is, arguably, the most important of all: that the person will become part of the future leadership.
In order to make judgements about people, the organization would like to know what is necessary for the future as well as the present. Immediately, it runs into the problem of the future being just a sketch.
The sketchiness of the future reflects the uncertainty with which it is viewed. By way of contrast, before giants had to try to learn to dance, specifying the qualities that made for future leadership appeared easy. Organizations were quite clear about what they wanted. 'Planning and organizing' was a ubiquitous competency, together with analytical skills and the ability to give direction. In short, competencies were about management and management was about command and control.
With hindsight, this certainty of what was required can be seen to have been an illusion based on an understandable failure to foresee changes in the environment. In particular, it neglected the increasing competitiveness of the market place and the related need to win customers' loyalty and then retain it. These changes have called for senior managers to behave