IBM’s HR Takes a Risk

By Apr 1, 2007
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HR Magazine, April 2007Leadership Development

Sam Palmisano, chairman and CEO at IBM, has refined the process for developing top talent. Under Lou Gerstner, IBM's previous CEO, the top 300 executives were identified and managed individually as part of the succession planning process. Palmisano stuck with the top 300 but, at HR's suggestion, created the Integration and values Team (INVT). "In addition to bringing these people together and communicating with them, we wanted to invest more heavily in their personal development," says Karen Calo, vice president for global talent.

The high-potential employees on the INVT are placed in 10 teams of 30. Each team devotes three weeks to a pressing business problem selected personally by Palmisano. The first week is about coming together and defining the problem. The second week is for discovery, interviewing and investigating the issues. In the third week, the team comes back together, assesses the data together and makes recommendations. Finally, they bring the recommendation to Palmisano, earning either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Robert J. Grossman, a contributing editor of HR Magazine, is a lawyer and a professor of management studies at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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