People Stuff: The Pros and Cons of Building an A-Player Organization

math formulas

Photo by Joao Trindade

Business is math. By that, I mean that if we really wanted to, we could create a mathematical model to depict almost every aspect of a business and then connect those models to build projections and assist with performance analysis. Realistically, most of the work associated with building such models doesn’t generate enough value to justify the investment, but even rough mathematically-based models can be highly informative. One of the areas where this comes into play is in analyzing supply and demand in terms of homegrown talent.

Last week, I wrote about A Players as well as B, C and D Players, and shared my definitions of each:

  • A Players do their job exceptionally well and add energy to the organization,
  • B Players do their jobs well, but don’t consistently add energy to the organization,
  • C Players may or may not do their job well but they always drain an organization’s energy, and
  • D Players never should have been in the job in the first place.

I also noted that in my estimation, both A and B Players, using EOS terminology “GWC” their role; they “Get it, Want it, and have the Capacity to do it.” Finally, I proposed that leaders should think carefully through the consequences of having an organization comprised solely of A Players before they set out to build one.

The consequences of employing A Players only

Remember that A Players are high-energy, driven individuals who will do whatever it takes to progress to the next level. With that in mind, consider this: if you had only A Players and your business reached a stagnant phase, how long do you think it would be before you started to lose talent? Could you calculate the probabilities based upon your current accountability chart and your expected rate of growth?

The answer is relatively easy to determine, especially if you buy into the broader theory associated with time span capacity and the time spans associated with each layer of an organization. Allow me to drill a little into the math…

  • For the most part, if you truly had all A Players, your first layer of talent (assuming those are “grinders” who are in jobs that require time span capacities of less than three months) will give you no more than a year before they want to move up or get out.
  • Your second layer of talent will be sitting in “minder” (manager/supervisor) seats that require time span capacities of 3 – 12 months. These seats take a little more time to learn, so these A Players will likely give you 12 – 18 months before they want to move up or get out.
  • Your talent at layer three (minders in jobs typically requiring time span capacities of twelve to 24 months) will probably give you no more than 30 months before they start heading to the hills.

And so on (see my Time Span Capacity in Management post for the time spans associated with each layer in an organization).

The truth is when you have an organization comprised of all A Players, you have to feed these “learning animals” continuously with challenging opportunities for growth or they get bored and leave. If you truly want an organization of all A Players, then you must commit yourself to growing fast.

If you cannot imagine growing as fast as the math suggests, you may be better off with a mix of A and B Players. B Players can GWC a seat and are much more likely to be happy sitting in it for a longer period of time. But be careful; if you surround yourself with too many B Players, you can be less likely to attract A Players, because A Players don’t like to worry about B Players blocking their path to the top.

Until next time, may you build with passion and confidence.

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