Friday, July 27, 2007

Summary of Marcus Buckingham's Strengths Movement and its Value to Business

A few months back, I wrote a summary of the strengths movement – personal strengths, or employee strengths if you're a manager, according to the work done by Gallup and Marcus Buckingham (previously misspelled Markus Buckingham on my blog).

I've since found myself forwarding this email numerous times to others to give them a quick overview or primer with a focus on the value to the company. This post is the same content and formatting for easier reference.

Overview- Why and How

"Our people are our greatest asset." Correction - your people's talents are your greatest asset, or more precisely "Aligning our people's talents to their tasks so that they play to their strengths the majority of each day is our greatest asset."

The premise of strengths-based teams is that the most effective method for motivating people is to build on their strengths rather than correcting their weaknesses. People don't change that much, and the effort to remediate their weaknesses is much effort for minimal return. Researchers at the Gallup Organization have analyzed results of interviews of over 1.7 million employees from 101 companies and representing 63 countries. Less than 20 percent of employees stated that they were using their strengths every day. And there is no relation to type of work, skilled or unskilled, industry or even within company. In fact, more disparity existed within companies than outside, showing that there is no such thing as "great companies," only great teams within those companies.

One must purchase a book (noted later in this post) in order to get access to the test which reveals their strengths. Once they learn their profile, a manager can begin a process of how to capitalize upon each person's unique traits, aligning them with the goals of their team and the company, resulting in better performance and employee satisfaction.

Summary of Strengths Books by Buckingham and Gallup

For background, here's a summary of the related books. In "First, Break All the Rules," strengths are mentioned as one of the levers that great managers can use to get the most out of their employees. In fact, it trumps all the other tools a manager can use. Then, in "Now, Discover Your Strengths," aimed at management and business, the authors focused on solely on strengths (because it is the greatest single lever to increase team performance), listed all 34 strength types, and gave cases studies and examples. The book includes a code to take the strengths profile test. The new "StrengthFinder 2.0" book is geared more for the individual, and contains a slightly newer version of the test with a bit more guidance on the next steps of how to apply your strengths. Finally, in the new "Go Put Your Strengths to Work," Buckingham explains (and gives great, practical tools) on how to take personal responsibility in turning knowledge into action, because just knowing your strengths alone doesn't change a person into someone who leverages their strengths the majority of the day.

Supporting Facts

Here's an edited down snippet from a Gallup white paper on the results of their strengths study:

Definitions of performance vary, but typically include indices such as productivity (revenue in business), profitability, employee retention, customer loyalty, and safety. Substantial predictive validities have been established between structured interview measures of manager "talents" and future manager performance (Schmidt & Rader, 1999). In a recent study of more than 2,000 managers in the Gallup database, Gallup researchers studied the responses of managers to open- ended questions related to management of individual talents versus weaknesses. In comparison to poor-performing managers, top-performing managers (based on composite performance) were more likely to indicate that they spend time with high producers, match talents to tasks, and emphasize individual strengths versus seniority in making personnel decisions. Success was 86 percent greater for managers with a "strengths versus non- strengths " approach (Gallup Organization, 2002). Managers with a strengths-based approach nearly double their likelihood of success.

The ROI of Employee Engagement

The employees who say they "have the opportunity to do what they do best every day" have substantially higher performance. In a study of 308,798 employees in 51 companies, teams scoring above the median on this statement have 44 percent higher probability of success on customer loyalty and employee retention, and 38 percent higher probability of success on productivity measures (Harter & Schmidt, 2002). "Success" is defined as exceeding the median performance within one's own company, across work units. Managers who create environments in which employees have a chance to use their talents have more productive work units with less employee turnover.

The ROI of Strengths Development

Gallup researchers has performed studies of talent identification, feedback, and strengths development activities with a "study group" and a "control group" who were administered the "StrengthsFinder" assessment and given feedback, both individually and in group sessions, with follow-up. Post-intervention measurements of employee engagement in productivity were conducted six months later. Results indicated that the study group productivity grew by 50 percent more than the control group did.

Taken from

Other links:

Gallup's StrengthFinder Center:

Marcus Buckingham's site:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Do We Need to Manage People?

Going through Good to Great again, and was struck by Jim Collin's statement that the best companies hire self-disciplined people who don't need to be managed, and the leadership manages the system, not the people.

One of Scrum's principles is that the teams are self-managing. But I can see now that that principle depends on having the right people on the team – disciplined people. Just because I'm running scrum doesn't mean that someone on the team who wasn't previously self-managing or disciplined suddenly becomes disciplined. The opportunity is there for them, and hopefully peers around them to model after, but the brutal facts might be that there are team members who will never become self-managing, self-disciplined. Perhaps the team manages these people off their team, but if the team and process doesn't gel immediately (average of several sprints before typically gelled and consistent), then it is likely the ScrumMaster may be the first to deal with whether a person is right for the team.