I had to laugh at a recent HBR blog post titled “People Are Not Your Greatest Asset”.  “Your Baby Is Ugly” would have raised fewer hackles in popular business circles.

Customer Service… No More Monkey BusinessRest assured that people are the engine that powers a company.  But people without a structure are unlikely to succeed in maximizing the value of the firm.  Consider the ‘infinite monkey theorem’ which is defined as (my thanks to Wikipedia… donate here):

“A monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.”

So yes, it makes [some] mathematical sense that people are your greatest asset in the [remote] sense that a monkey is a giant in the literary field.  Given enough time, and trying random combinations of products, services, markets, and pricing, it is possible, though unlikely, to create the next economic juggernaut.  How much better could we be if we instead developed a culture that aligned people, process and technology towards a common goal?  If we don’t align, the theorem suggests a more likely scenario where people expend time and effort which yields little.

In the end, people can be the most expensive stranded asset without leadership, vision, culture, and execution to support them.  The pivot point is that in order to create that masterpiece our people, process and technology must be aligned to work together towards a common purpose.  If we don’t, our monkey business creates gibberish not value.

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