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Recommended Reads – Week 34

Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First
by Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey

Talent Wins is the definitive book for reimagining and creating talent-driven organizations, packed with CEO-level advice on what needs to change and how to change it.

Harvard Business Review Press, March 2018 | Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey
Most executives today recognize the competitive advantage of human capital, and yet the talent practices their organizations use are stuck in the twentieth century. Typical HR talent-planning processes (which are too expensive and take too long to implement) are designed for predictable environments, traditional ways of getting work done, and organizations where lines and boxes still define how people are managed.

As work and organizations have become more fluid—and business strategy is no longer about planning years out but about sensing and seizing new opportunities and adapting to a constantly changing environment—companies must deploy talent in new ways to remain competitive.
Written for CEOs and leaders across the organization, Talent Wins provides a much-needed framework for transforming how companies acquire, manage, and deploy talent—for today’s agile, digital, analytical, technologically driven strategic environment—and for creating the HR function the business needs.

With examples of companies that are well along the path of reinventing their approaches to talent, such as Amgen, AT&T, BlackRock, GE, Haier, J&J, and PepsiCo, as well as the juggernauts and the start-ups of Silicon Valley, this book provides leaders with a seven-part plan for:

  • Integrating talent and capital
  • Making talent drive strategy
  • Designing and redesigning the work of the organization
  • Scaling up individual talent
  • Creating an M&A strategy for talent
  • Reinventing the role of HR
  • Living the talent agenda

Providing deep, expert insight and advice for what needs to change and how to change it, Talent Wins is the definitive book for reimagining and creating the talent-driven organization.


Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick : People, Probabilities, and Big Moves to Beat the Odds by Chris Bradley

Beat the odds with a bold strategy

We’ve all seen hockey stick business plans before. A future where results sail confidently upward, but with a dip coinciding with next year’s budget.

CEOs usually rely on their experience and business smarts to figure out which of those hockey sticks are real, and which are fake. But all too often getting to a “yes,” competing for resources, and striving to claim credit, cloud the hard decisions. Another strategy framework? No thanks, we already have plenty of those, and they don’t fix the real problem: the social dynamics in your strategy room.

Mining the data from thousands of large companies, McKinsey Partners Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt and Sven Smit open the windows of that room, and bring an “outside view.” They found three discrete groups of companies: the bottom quintile with massive economic losses; the long, flat, middle 60 percent with practically no economic profit; and the top 20 percent to whom all the value accrues.

Some companies do achieve real hockey stick performance: but just 1-in-12 jump from the middle tier to the top over a ten year period. This does not happen by magic—there is an empirically-backed science to improve your odds of success by capitalizing on your endowment, riding the right trends, and most importantly, making a few big moves.

To make these big moves happen, you’re going to have to break through inertia, gamesmanship and risk aversion. You’re going to have to mitigate human biases and manage group dynamics. Eight practical shifts can help you do this, and unlock bigger, bolder, better strategies.
This is not another by-the-book approach to strategy. It’s not another trudge through frameworks or small-scale case studies promising a secret formula for success. It’s an irreverent, fact-driven, and humorous take on the real world of strategic decision making.


Astroball : The New Way to Win It All by Ben Reiter

When Sports Illustrated declared on the cover of a June 2014 issue that the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017, people thought Ben Reiter, the article’s author, was crazy. The Astros were the worst baseball team in half a century, but they were more than just bad. They were an embarrassment, a club that didn’t even appear to be trying to win. The cover story, combined with the specificity of Reiter’s claim, met instant and nearly universal derision. But three years later, the critics were proved improbably, astonishingly wrong. How had Reiter predicted it so accurately? And, more important, how had the Astros pulled off the impossible?

Astroball is the inside story of how a gang of outsiders went beyond the stats to find a new way to win—and not just in baseball. When new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his top analyst, the former rocket scientist Sig Mejdal, arrived in Houston in 2011, they had already spent more than half a decade trying to understand how human instinct and expertise could be blended with hard numbers such as on-base percentage and strikeout rate to guide their decision-making. In Houston, they had free rein to remake the club. No longer would scouts, with all their subjective, hard-to-quantify opinions, be forced into opposition with the stats guys. Instead, Luhnow and Sig wanted to correct for the biases inherent in human observation, and then roll their scouts’ critical thoughts into their process. The numbers had value—but so did the gut.

The strategy paid off brilliantly, and surprisingly quickly. It pointed the Astros toward key draft picks like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman; offered a path for developing George Springer, José Altuve, and Dallas Keuchel; and showed them how veterans like Carlos Beltrán and Justin Verlander represented the last piece in the puzzle of fielding a championship team.

Sitting at the nexus of sports, business, and innovation—and written with years of access to the team’s stars and executives—Astroball is the story of the next wave of thinking in baseball and beyond, at once a remarkable underdog story and a fascinating look at the cutting edge of evaluating and optimizing human potential.


Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.


The Man Who Knew : The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan by Sebastican Mallaby

WINNER OF THE 2016 FT & McKINSEY BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD, this is the biography of one of the titans of financial history over the last fifty years. Born in 1926, Alan Greenspan was raised in Manhattan by a single mother and immigrant grandparents during the Great Depression but by quiet force of intellect, rose to become a global financial `maestro’. Appointed by Ronald Reagan to Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a post he held for eighteen years, he presided over an unprecedented period of stability and low inflation, was revered by economists, adored by investors and consulted by leaders from Beijing to Frankfurt. Both data-hound and eligible society bachelor, Greenspan was a man of contradictions. His great success was to prove the very idea he, an advocate of the Gold standard, doubted: that the discretionary judgements of a money-printing central bank could stabilise an economy. He resigned in 2006, having overseen tumultuous changes in the world’s most powerful economy. Yet when the great crash happened only two years later many blamed him, even though he had warned early on of irrational exuberance in the market place. Sebastian Mallaby brilliantly shows the subtlety and complexity of Alan Greenspan’s legacy. Full of beautifully rendered high-octane political infighting, hard hitting dialogue and stories, The Man Who Knew is superbly researched, enormously gripping and the story of the making of modern finance.

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