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First Who, then What

Submitted by on Friday, 13 July 20126 Comments

First Who, then What

Struggling with teamwork and results? If so, then revisiting First Who, then What and specifically, how First Who, then What can be applied practically in a company to make it easier to manage, may be of help.

First Who, then What – birth of a concept

First Who, then WhatThe phrase was coined by Jim Collins in his bestselling book Good to Great. The book was based on a massive volume of research compiled with MIT into what the key differentiator of successful companies was. And one of the key concepts was First Who, then What.

Put simply, Jim Collins discovered that exceptional companies – among them Wells Fargo and Kimberly Clark among others, didn’t ‘do’ strategy first. Instead, they focussed on creating a great founding team, and the strategy followed.

“First figure out your partners, then figure out what ideas to pursue. The most important thing isn’t the market you target, the product you develop or the financing, but the founding team.”

Jim Collins, Good to Great

It’s important to recognise that this is not only at the founding team level, but at every level.

The formula for success from his research? ‘Get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people in the right seats, then figure out where to go.’

Bottom line – people first, strategy later.

How to apply First Who, then What in your team or organisation

One of the problems faced by companies in Asia is that staff turnover rates tend to be higher than those in home markets (for multinationals).

Companies are thus spending so much time simply filling the seats on the bus that they have no time to figure out who is the ‘right’ person for each seat.

And with recruitment fees usually north of 20% annual salary, this is costing companies a fortune.

In our experience, this is exactly the problem that Jim Collins identified: companies are not hiring for talent. Instead, they seem content on hiring for a grab bag of experience, educational qualifications and completely irrelevant subjective likeability by the interviewer, with the end result that they are recruiting ‘wrong seaters’ from the start.

When disengagement and motivation issues se in, it is not long before the mis-hires are on their way again, creating a downward spiral of simply seat-filling and fire-fighting.

What you can do to go from Good to Great

So how do we define the ‘right’ person? Jim Collins again:

“Whether someone is the ‘right person’ has more to do with character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background or skills.”

As we noted above (and as Peter Drucker noted here 40 years ago), most people don’t have a clue what talents (innate capabilities) are, so cannot be surprised when the doom loop of staff turnover takes place.

Few people in management may know, but there is a way not only to discover talents, but also to identify others’ talents too. The pioneering programme from Talent Technologies – Talent Factor – takes only one day and gives executives all the tools they need to be able to go First Who then What in their teams and create the basis for a Good to Great company.

Interested? Feel free to email us here for full programme details!

And if you would like to get forthcoming articles on identifying your talents remember to subscribe here.


Talent Technologies :: Taking your Talent to a Higher Level



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