Article - Business Acumen - A Gut Feeling Or Can It Be Learned?

Project Description

TTM associates Article

Business Acumen is arguably one of the most difficult topics that many are trying to wrap their heads around. One thing that is for sure is that Executive Teams, Business Leaders, HR practitioners and Learning and Development Directors acknowledge the impact and value that management brings to the organisation when they have a high degree of Business Acumen.

In their 2011 work,The Leadership Pipeline, Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel, studied the process and criteria for selecting a group manager, suggesting that the process and criteria are similar for selecting a CEO.According to them an obvious criterion for selecting a leader is well-developed Business Acumen. An organization full of high Business Acumen individuals can expect to see leaders with a heightened perspective that translates into an ability to inspire and excite the organization to achieve its potential. High levels of Business Acumen across the organisation have become the key differentiator between successful organisations and those that are merely performing averagely. Executive Development Associates’ 2009/2010 survey of Chief Learning Officers, Senior Vice Presidents of Human Resources, and Heads of Executive and Leadership Development listed BusinessAcumen as the second most significant trend in executive development.

A 2011 report published by Merrill C.Anderson Ph.D. explored in detail the impact of Business Acumen training on an organization in terms of intangibles and more tangible expressions of value. Dr.Anderson’s findings support the opinions of Drs. Raymond Reilly and Gregory Reilly that Business Acumen is largely a learned skill. This moves us to the next question, what is Business Acumen? During the course of my career in over
20 years of practicing and developing Business Acumen for tens of thousands of business leaders; I have often been faced with the question “is Business Acumen a gut feel or is it a skill that can be learned?”. My answer to this is that it is a combination of both, based on the context that a business practitioner is facing at any specific point in time. Business Acumen is the ability to make quick decisions that have a predicted future positive impact on the financial results of an organisation. I cannot but smile while writing this seemly simple statement as the reality is far from that simple, especially in today’s global economy, high levels of turbulence and high uncertainty that decision makers face on a daily basis. One thing however is for sure,to manage the challenges of today’s complex environment,requires much more than just good old“gut Feel”!

How to develop BusinessAcumen across any organization?

The fundamental mistake that is made time and again is to immediately come to the conclusion that Business Acumen is a skill that only consists of knowledge and some practice. But to live up to the complex challenges that organisations face, we need more. Knowledge and skills make up only half of the journey! The other half of Business Acumen has to do with the associated workplace behaviours that are required as well as the integration of skills in order to achieve the desired business impact. It is only when your target group masters these four components that you will start to optimize the change into something positive, hence leveraging on Business Acumen in order to reach business success and excellence.

It is interesting to note that Business Acumen skills are required by all stuff, but especially for managers.
As we are viewing Business Acumen as an integrated skill set, the training in Business Acumen requires not only that foundational concepts are covered, but immediately practical application and practical experience in application and integration be experienced
by participants. Business simulation has become one of the most powerful and effective tools out there to develop Business Acumen for your people.

What you need to ascertain though is:

    1. Are the outcomes customizable to suit your context?
    2. Is it flexible enough to accommodate real life scenarios that your target group face or will face?
    3. To what extent does the simulation allows you to zoom in on critical business areas and issues that are real points of pressure?

Can the simulation be scaled up or down to suit different levels of sophistication in the company hierarchy?

  1. Is it click-and-play learning or does it have strong outcomes that will include critical thinking skills with inter-personal interaction and behaviours to achieve results, as happens in real-life?

Business Acumen should be a top priority for your Executive Team and you as an HR specialist can actively contribute in building value for the organisation by radically improving your manager’s Business Acumen skills. Furthermore, the challenges of finding economic opportunity and growth for your organisation becomes much clearer when you have empowered your managers with strong Business Acumen skills – they will still be able to excel in their irrespective areas, but will now also be able to contribute with direct actions to business growth and cross – functional cooperation and leadership!

HR practitioners have highlighted the importance of BUSINESS ACUMEN across various organizational levels. They have consistently identified the vital importance of the BUSINESS ACUMEN Leadership Key to the success of their organizations. Business stakeholders that seek to leverage added value and to build an Innovative Behavioural – Based Leadership way across their organizations should consider BUSINESS ACUMEN as a core competency.