Strategy & LeadershipEstablishing an Organization Guidance System

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Alan Todd break down Organization Guidance Systems - what they are, and why they are essential to HR's role in business.

By Dave Ulrich, Co-Founder, The RBL Group, Norm Smallwood, Co-Founder, The RBL Group, and Alan Todd, Founder, CorpU.


In World War I, the Allied Powers and Central Powers each had about equal bombing power and accuracy. By World War II, the Allied Powers had further developed their missile guidance systems than their new opponent the Axis Powers, which enabled the Allied Powers to have more target accuracy. Over the decades since, military guidance systems have become more precise to focus on a specific target, and also provide the ability to make real-time, on-going maneuvers to deliver desired outcomes.

Likewise, guidance counselors help students determine where they want to go and then make suitable adjustments in their choices to reach their aspirations.  Organizations offer investors guidance on their upcoming financial results to signal the future. In the digital world, autonomous vehicles depend on software that senses information to provide guidance for the car to safely reach a desired destination.

In each of these (and many other) cases, a guidance system establishes aspirations, then provides information leading to desired results.

We believe the time has come to create an Organization Guidance System (OGS) that can be used by business and HR leaders to provide course-correcting to enable more effective organizations.  An Organization Guidance System is a bold ambition. It combines and moves beyond scorecards that report what has happened, dashboards that offer current information, and predictive analytics that show what might happen into an integrated guidance system that enables more effective organizations.

Why Is an Organization Guidance System Valuable?

Josh Bersin recently shared that there are over 2,700 HR apps on the market with a recent 3-years expenditure of $16 billion. While this dizzying array of digital information offers dazzyling insights into organizations, this myriad of innovative ideas overwhelms business leaders who struggle to sort out which ideas to use (see essay: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/assessing-your-hr-analytics-capability-dave-ulrich/) An Organization Guidance System clarifies not only the desired outcomes of organization investments but the pathways to reach these outcomes and the precision adjustments required to make sustainable progress.

What Would an Organization Guidance System Offer?

Simply stated, an OGS articulates desired business, customer, and investor outcomes, then offers guidance to attain them. In our collective one hundred years of professional experience (with over 35 books, hundreds of articles, and consulting with thousands of companies), we have identified four general pathways to create effective or winning organizations.

  • The raw ingredients of any organization are its people who bring competencies (skills to get work done today and tomorrow), commitment (engagement and energy), and contribution (work experiences with purpose, opportunities to grow, and a sense of community).
  • Organization. Winning in the marketplace comes from turning individual competencies into organization capabilities that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Teamwork delivers business results more than talent; the workplace more than workforce; cultural systems more than skills.
  • An individual leader matters but creating collective leadership brand throughout an organization matters even more for sustained business, customer, and investor results.
  • Human Resources (HR). While business leaders are primarily responsible for talent, organization, and leadership agendas, HR professionals and the HR departments where they work also impact sustained organization success.

An OGS informs choices in each of these four paths to ensure that ideas have sustainable impact.

How Does an Organization Guidance System Work?

To make informed choices along each of the four paths above, we have identified three phases of an OGS: assessment/diagnosis; intervention; and precision navigation.

Assessment/Diagnosis. Any guidance system starts with information that sets a baseline, defines outcomes, and monitors progress. Assessments can be made in each area:

  • Talent: How well do we invest in practices that improve talent and bring people into and move them through the organization, increasing their commitment and enhancing their work experience?
  • Organization: How well do we identify and create the capabilities (e.g., agility/speed, right culture, innovation, collaboration, efficiency, information asymmetry, etc.) to win in our market?
  • Leadership: How well do we invest in creating a leadership brand that ensures our leaders deliver on our promises to customers?
  • HR: How well does our HR department deliver valuable insights for business, customer, and investor outcomes?

Numerous assessments of these four pathways can now be unified into a set of diagnostics that can be measured online (for free) to determine their current state.

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Interventions for Improvement. Like the adjustments to missiles, personal careers, autonomous cars, or other initiatives, the OGS offers insights on how to improve along each of the four pathways. There are literally thousands of interventions that can be made to improve each pathway (including utilizing the 2,700 HR apps). For example, to create a stronger leadership brand, organizations could make many initiatives ranging from relatively simple (e.g., read a book, listen to a TED talk) to moderately demanding (attend a course, receive coaching) to complex (create a leadership capital index for investors).

An OGS would offer business and HR leaders a menu of choices, each of which has a degree of difficulty to implement and a relative impact on the desired outcome. From this array of intervention choices, business and HR leaders can improve organization performance along each of the four paths.

Precision Navigation for Informed Choices. All guidance systems monitor progress and offer adjustment suggestions in order to reach the desired outcomes. Likewise, an OGS offers ongoing, relevant, real-time, and actionable information to make better choices for the four pathways. This information comes in Software as a Service (SaaS) packages where leaders and HR professionals receive timely reports with insights on how to adapt to meet desired goals.  This precision navigation helps leaders know when they are getting off target and how to adjust to deliver sustainable impact.

What are Our Overall Aspirations for an Organization Guidance System?

The time is right to establish an OGS because a thorough body of knowledge exists for each of the four paths (talent, organization, leadership, and HR), and we are weaving them together to deliver business, customer, and investor results. Coupled with the latest technological advances (e.g., SaaS packages), the OGS can be readily accessed, scaled, and personalized for organization effectiveness.

We believe that the combined resources of The RBL Group (RBL) and CorpU (along with our industry partners) can co-create, refine, and deliver this OGS.  We are excited about the progress we are already making as we combine the content IP of RBL with the technology IP of CorpU.

Using online assessments/diagnostics, intervening relevantly, and advising with precision navigation choices along the four pathways will help business and HR leaders craft organizations that win for employees inside and customers and investors outside.

Let us know if you want to join us in this moonshot.

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