Project Management

Harvest Home Grown Talent

From the My Professional Journey Blog
Sharing Insights from my Professional life , where I have been a Sales Engineer, A Health Professional and now , a Project Management Professional. These blogs encompass my observations or experiences. They may be regarding the Projects that I have led or been a part of or something close to our daily lives like Mindfulness and health which may affect our productivity as Project Managers.

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What are some of the goals of a commercial enterprise?

  1. To continuously increase profits 
  2. To justify Return On Investment
  3. To be a market leader
  4. To produce high quality products

What are some of the goals of a non-profit organization?

  1. To produce a high-quality non- commercial product .
  2. To provide a high-quality service to the community.
  3. To be the most respected and employer of choice in the community.

How do these different kinds of organizations achieve their goals?

  1. By Improving Productivity 
  2. By Improving through-put
  3. By Increasing efficiency in labor, cost, work practices, policies.

So what ultimately are the enablers to achieving the company or organization's goals?  They are the people working in these companies and organizations. They are the workforce, human resources, employees, Volunteers - whatever you wish to call them , in short, the living flesh and blood of these bodies.

So in order to reach the end goal of profits or a quality product and respect from the community, Companies and Organizations need to harness , encourage , develop and harvest the talents of the people working for them. At the forefront of every company's strategy must be the development and acquisition of capable, empowered and talented leaders, Leaders:- 

  1.  Who think outside the square
  2. Who are enablers of positive change.
  3. Who are receptive to positive ideas or criticisms, no matter whether the ideas and criticisms come from the lowest rung of the corporate ladder or the highest.
  4. Leaders who can build and train their workforce  towards achieving the organizational objectives.

Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great" says that he had a team of researchers working and researching on eleven companies that attained meteoric growth and sustained that growth for a period of 15 years or more and at the heart of that growth was a great, aggressive, humble and innovative leadership . 

Where did these companies find these leaders? In a staggering 90-95 percent of the cases, the Leadership was home-grown. Yes, the leaders have risen through the ranks within these companies and have catapulted them to great heights. Therefore, Harvesting Home Grown Talent does pay rich dividends a lot of times.

And yes, Home Grown Talent is not only useful in developing leadership skills, but also for retaining efficient workers who keeping improving and  excelling  at what they do but may not have leadership aspirations. 

 My perception of Harvesting Home Grown Talent is a four step process :-

  1. Discover  the Home Grown Talent, irrespective of outward appearances.
  2. Nourish the Home Grown Talent
  3. Setup the Home Grown Talent for personal and organizational growth
  4. Harvest the Home Grown Talent to reap rich dividends 

I was thoroughly impressed by an Article called "What Great Managers Do" by Marcus Buckingham on the Harvard Business Review website. He tells a story of an exceptional leader, who was the Manager  of  a Walgreens store who effectively used the above four steps to lead the store to success. 

In every Walgreens store there is a concept of Reset and Revision. A Reset involves stocking an aisle with new merchandise, whereas a Revision is rearranging the items to look more appealing. The manager Michelle,  had a rather eccentric looking gentleman as a staff member who she may  have never employed, had he not expressed an interest in doing a "difficult to resource" graveyard shift at night.

She realized that this gentleman, when told to perform a generic task , would fiddle with it for hours together but when given a specific task , like re-arranging the "Christmas merchandise" , excelled at it. The manager recognized his talent and made him the "re-arranging" and "re-setting" in-charge for the whole store.

On the other hand, this staff member wasn't good at customer service. So she discovered another lady working in the "cosmetics" part of the store who was extremely good at customer service  and at the same time was very skillful in "Revision". She made the customer-service lady "Revision" in-charge of the whole store for a part of her day and customer - service for another part of the day.

In the end, the Manager got the best of both her employees and set them up for future growth within the organization and in their careers ahead.

Having such talented leaders at the helm, it's therefore no surprise that Walgreens features as a "Good to Great" company in Jim Collin's book as well.

Jim Collins also explains the principle of "Genius with a Thousand Helpers". A leader that is a genius drives a successful company,  but after they leave the company , it cannot sustain because the "helpers" haven't been empowered or imparted the "elixir of success" to carry the company forward after their departure. Contrast this to a "Great" company where the Leader assembles a team of superior executives during their tenure,  with effective succession planning to carry on their Legacy and their good work.

In my experience, Harvesting Home Grown Talent has several advantages:-

  • The person has in-depth knowledge of the Business Process of the company and can play a pivotal role in introducing efficiency.
  • The person has valuable insights from what went wrong in previous projects and can provide inputs into planning the next one more efficiently.
  • The person is well trained and experienced in what they do and are valuable Subject Matter Experts in projects affecting or using their area of work.
  • Over-time managers can discover transferable and hidden skills in the employees that can benefit other parts of the organization or business.

Harvesting Home Grown Talent also requires the following :-

  1. Demonstration of Initiative and Leadership skills by the employee.
  2. Eagerness  shown by the employee to progress vertically or horizontally within the organization.
  3. The alignment of the employee's knowledge and skills to the Organizational Vision.
  4. A workplace champion or protege (can be your manager or a person who is empowered to bring an organizational change) who recognizes the talent and encourages it .

 Bill Gates identified the first three qualities above in Satya Nadella and by his virtue of possessing the fourth quality above and being intimately aware of Satya's work , determined that there was no better successor to him than Satya.

Has Harvesting Home Grown Talent setup Microsoft for success? Only time will tell but the respect shown and the opportunity given is commendable nevertheless . 


 (image courtesy :-

Posted on: January 23, 2017 05:56 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Thank you for this post. Well said and well thought out post. I appreciate it. The subject is vast but you hit on some great points. In your opinion and in most cases, do you think the time involved in raising home grown leaders is what precludes some businesses from adopting a similar training program to the successes you describe? Or is it the desire to "bring in talent from the outside" that drives some businesses to look elsewhere for leadership?

Thank you for your kind words Michael.
Yes indeed, both the points you raise are valid .
The time taken to raise home grown leaders may indeed discourage some business leaders and encourage them to look outside.
The "talent from outside" is not necessarily a bad idea either . The person from the inside may have a wealth of knowledge about the organization and may be able to step up and lead the organization but may implement more tried and tested ideas whereas the "outside talent" may have a fresh pair of eyes and assist in innovation .
The solution could be a hybrid approach where the Business leaders can invest in developing internal leaders but could bring in experts from outside on contracts to mentor and work with these internal leaders. In this instance, it is pivotal for the leaders to reinforce that they are only bringing in "additional innovation and help" and that they still value and trust their internal proteges to continuously drive the organization to success.

Organisations need internal and external talent or at least an external perspective. My experience as a lifer at my former company, I valued internal development balanced with exposure to external organisations through joint ventures, partnerships and industry networking.

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"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

- George Bernard Shaw