“The ability to identify and utilize Knights within an organization is the single greatest competitive advantage the organization can possess.”
Organizations have been attempting to identify the types of employees that build value within organization s long before business was known in the traditional sense of the word. Kings tried to find lords who could best maximize tax revenues, Warlords tried to employ the most competent of advisors to increase the likelihood of wartime success, and now CEOs attempt to employ those that can provide competitive advantage for their organizations. In attempting to identify these employees batteries of tests have been developed, numerous interview strategies have been employed, and school records analyzed. In my view none of these are particularly effective at determining the creators of high value within an organization. While excelling at their functions is a prerequisite, it is not the true determinant of value. Rather it is those that protect an organization through their awareness of trends or situations in the organization and marketplace as well as the potential impact. They are masters of Displaced Perspective Views which is understanding how a response will be perceived from several different perspectives. Most importantly they excel at communicating both of the above throughout an organization. These are the Knights.
Awareness– A competence defined as the ability of an individual or group to have objective or subjective knowledge, insight, or foresight into situations or responses and the effect that they may have on an organization and its activities.
Displaced Perspective Imaging – As explained in the DPI chapter of this book, Displaced Perspective Imaging is the ability to understand the effects a situation or response will have on others. For example the ability to see how a change in sales might affect warehouse employees or how a new technology being reviewed for implementation in customer service might impact the sales functions.
Effective Communication Skills– The ability to communicate efficiently throughout an organization.
Leaders strive to build value at organizations through the development of new products or services, the opening of new markets, and the recruitment and retention of a capable workforce. It can be argued that the capabilities and competencies of the workforce is the most important asset a leader can have.
Among a workforce are several general categories of employees. I think of these a bit differently than what the traditional definitions would suggest. First you have workforce employees. These employees provide value by performing normal activities within the functional position they are assigned to.
Second you have the supervisors. These manage and supervise workforce employees as they carry out functional activities assigned to them. They act to provide guidance when dealing with situations that arise and are useful in monitoring and providing feedback as needed to the general workforce. They should be seen as managing not only the employees within their sphere but as also providing value by having a more removed view of the RPCs and collaborating with their groups as to how they can be improved.
Third you have managers. Managers are different in my eyes than supervisors in that they manage RPCs and TRCs. So while supervisors oversee the human aspect of an organization it is the managers that oversee the processes and procedures that form the core of the workforces functional activities. They analyze, change, and implement RPCs throughout their functional area. Managers and supervisors both require a unique skill set. The skills needed to make a great manager do not always make a great supervisor and vice versa. This difference in skill sets often lead to inefficiencies when the two roles are merged. It is a manager that plays the largest role in formulating responses to new situations that deal with process inefficiencies or bottlenecks.
Up on the next rung you have Cadres. Cadres are those that lead the management and supervisory functions of an area within an organization by having a blend of both competences. They have the analytical skills to improve the efficiency of a functional area but they also have the supervisory skills to effectively lead the employees working within it.
Then you have the Brass. These are leaders who are able to move fluidly from area to area within an organization with a consistent level of effectiveness. They have a thorough understanding of an organization and the politics that underpin it. They have developed a competence for adaptability and this is reinforced repeatedly throughout an employee’s career. They act as a stop-gap for leadership and provide guidance when situations or responses span in scope across an organization. They are able to exert influence both directly and indirectly across an organization where other leaders are limited in their ability to do so. They can be called on to champion change and to add firepower to new initiatives. Finally you have the head, which would be the CEO, director, or owner of the organization.
There is a gap however and that is in recognizing the employee who is often overlooked, underutilized, and severely undervalued. They are the employees that often go on to start new businesses with their unique skill set. It is these employees that organizations should strive to identify and utilize. They reinforce each of the five categories and the value they provide in doing so can be felt throughout an organization.
Knights are employees that provide enormous value on every level of an organization. These employees have extremely high competence in three key areas. The rare combination of these three abilities makes them a powerful asset within organizations if they are realized and provided the proper development. To better understand these Knights it is necessary to understand each of the three characteristics they share.
Knights have a high degree of awareness. They are able to spot, decipher, and measure situations and their effects on the organizations they serve. This awareness can be due to excellent networking skills, a keen ear, constructive research skills, etc. Whatever the reason they have an uncanny ability to know what is happening both inside and outside their organization. They understand how new technologies are relevant to the organization, how news may present an opportunity to be seized, and how a minor situation may be hiding a much larger one.
Second Knights have strong competence Displaced Perspective Viewing or DPV. They understand clearly how situations or responses affect those around them. They are able to see what others do not immediately recognize when a proposal or other response is suggested. They can put themselves into different functional areas and predict both subjective and objective reactions to situations or responses by those who occupy the areas.
Third but equally important is that Knights possess strong effective communication skills across many levels of an organization. In this the Knights are able to deliver information in a manner and format that is easily but clearly understood by the recipient and as such provides value to them.
Therefore a Knight is able to see and understand situations before or while they are developing, understand the impacts of potential responses to those situations, and communicate them to the appropriate decision makers. Organizational leaders unconsciously depend on such individuals regularly to keep them informed. Unfortunately many Knights are not readily identified or developed, and they go on to provide great value elsewhere.
This skill set is a double edged sword for organizations, for the very qualities that make them so valuable to organizations often make them the most dangerous to ignore. Their awareness of situations and ability to formulate effective responses make them ideal entrepreneurs as they seek to capitalize on opportunities they feel their own organizations ignore or downplay. That being said identifying and developing these individuals can be a source of great competitive advantage for any organization.
1. Knights often advertise their abilities within an organization. It is through the observation of the tools that Knights choose to communicate with that can reveal these value creators. Compile a list of employee blogs, social networking hubs, suggestions, reports provided through a suggestion program, and informal surveys of managers and leaders within an organization. Encourage the use of these tools within an organization to better identify potential Knights in the future.
2. Create a Knight sheet for each employee. These should be blank sheets with the name of the employee and four columns. The first should be titled Item, the second Awareness, then DPV, and finally Communications.
3. Start reviewing the listed blogs, communications, etc and identify originators. Title or reference the item being discussed in the Item column. Then give a score between 1 and 3 for Awareness, DPV, and Communications based on the originators discussion or information about the referenced topic.
4. Knights often advertise multiple times using several avenues to increase the chance of their information or thoughts being heard. They often will not use a traditional chain of command as they are often dismayed by a perceived lack of interest or motivation by their immediate supervisors to transmit the information as necessary. Therefore you will see common contributors among these sources. Shortlist these contributors and potential Knights.
5. Divide potential Knights into categories based on step 3 above. Some of the potential Knights will be discarded because their communications tend to consist of subjective complaints or lack a proposed response. Others may lack the communication skills necessary to transfer information in a manner or format that is understood and provides value to others.
6. At the conclusion of the steps above you will have a list of Knights that have high competence in the three areas described above. These are the eyes and ears of an organization. Leaders and Cadres should lean and depend on these individuals to provide insight both within an organization as well as the marketplace. I suggest a Knights of the Round Table format where regular meetings are held where these Knights can present information they feel is important to the organization. This recognition by organizational leaders implies that additional development of these Knights towards greater responsibility is understood and provided. Knights are individuals that should be groomed to lead an organization or they may very well leave to lead another.
A. Knights emerge from all areas of an organization. The blind approach to identifying Knights and providing a forum for them will allow organizational leaders to better understand their organization and recognize potential talent for further development. These talents often go wasted under ineffective supervision or management.
B. The characteristics of a Knight are often based on a talent or core competence rather than a developed set of skills. Some individuals will always just have a better instinct for their surroundings then others.