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What are we optimising for?

The Peak Paradox model starts with a question, “What are we optimising for?” The framework allows individuals to express their views and for us to explore the delta between our views and that which is set by the team and or the organisation's vision, mission and values.

I use the questions that @RobbieStamp gave me to unpack the governance of the optimisation question. Is it working for us? Who is us? Of whom are we asking the question? These three simple questions enable anyone to test the framing we have been given for the decision we are being asked to make. However, there are some assumptions that proceed the optimisation question; these are, “Do we have the data?” and “Do we have the right skills?

I write endlessly about data, data framing, data attestation, data bias so let us leave the data question aspect to the many articles and links and focus on “Do we have the right skills!

The right skills

A prime role for any team leader to CEO is finding and retaining the right skills today and ensuring that the right skills are available for tomorrow. Using the diagram below, let's expand on the dilemma this creates as we recognise that we have to optimise for something new. The dilemma is created by recognising a gap between balancing the skills available today and the skills needed for tomorrow; where do you focus. This gap is created because of digital/ data.

Flowing from the top of the diagram. This is the influx of new staff and new skills, and should the focus be in replicating the existing organisation or what we need for tomorrow. Why focus on this? Because focusing on today's skills will deliver the plan, margin, outcomes and rewards. A focus on tomorrow rewards someone else from the bottom. This is our existing staff and do we have enough who can adapt and learn the new skills? Why focus on this because? It is easier to focus on what we have than hope to get the right skills for tomorrow. Given that it is easier and more rewarding to be late than early in decision making, where is the incentive to optimise for something new or, say, ESG or sustainability?

The gap is only created if the board can see that what we are optimising for today is different from what we need to optimise for tomorrow, which is the purpose of the Peak Paradox model. If they are the same (today skills, tomorrow’s skills and the same optimisation focus), we have to question if we have the right skills to see the gap!

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