Those who have sat on both sides of the fence find many new and stimulating challenges. They learn to adapt quickly and to use both overall strategy and day-to-day operating tactics with equal proficiency. Most managers agree that the most important decisions they make are people decisions. The best perspective for such decisions is provided by exposure to both line and staff assignments. A staff man would not approach his job as an observer who uncovers problems if he had line experience. Instead, he would seek to build close working relationships before trying to solve problems.

One of the best vehicles for bringing line and staff people together is the planning process. All key line managers should be asked to identify where their operations are going three to five years in the future and to describe how they plan to get there. This immediately opens up areas of shared interest where the expertise of both line and staff can be blended to produce the results that are best for the company.

Another way to meld the efforts of line and staff is to devote a full day to a discussion of human asset management. The human resources executive should plan such a meeting in a way that would require parti[censored] tion of the company top line and staff executives. He might do well to circulate in advance to all parti[censored] nts a few good recent articles on manager manpower planning and development. Best results are achieved when the meeting bears a direct relationship to a company-wide effort to which all have subscribed. For example, a meeting on executive manpower planning could be related to a five-year projection of business growth and development. To achieve appropriate impact and bring the subject into focus, the president introductory comments should stress everyone's expressed concern for the company's human asset management responsibility.

This could be followed up by having the personnel director project executive manpower attrition: resignations, terminations, deaths, and retirements. In addition, he should forecast managerial demands based solely on company growth and expansion. The anti[censored] ted changes in organization, job content, products, markets technology, systems, and procedures-and it becomes clear that in-house training is mandatory.

The line and staff executives should be assigned specific questions for discussion. A panel of top line and staff people should raise key issues which would necessitate some real brainstorming to develop solutions and answers.

A top line manager could ask, for instance, "Is executive manpower planning really necessary?" or "How do we know whether we have all the talent we need for growth right within the company?" He might challenge each of the division managers to identify his ten best performers regardless of where they were in the organization. Or he might ask: "Is not it enough to use good selection techniques at lower levels?" and "Are we making the best use of our executive talent at the present time?" The meeting parti[censored] nts could be expected to pinpoint the need to establish a manpower inventory and a system for identifying people for intra-company mobility.

To trigger discussion, perhaps a staff man could say that the best beginning is to have top quality people in all key positions with a lot of potential for advancement. And someone from the panel might ask: "What does it take to bring in and hold top quality people, and are we equipped to do so?" Perhaps what is needed is a way to improve the performance of key people. This line of reasoning could lead to a consensus for using management by objectives. Certainly current practices involving performance standards, measuring individual results, cooperation, selection, and training-all would have to be explored and examined.

If the consensus seems to be that there are not enough backup people on board, cost is a major consideration. The cost of promoting the wrong person and having him turn in a mediocre performance must be balanced against the probable costs of mistakes in hiring or deteriorating morale.

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