Dr. Bob Aubrey has been one of the vanguard thinkers and writers on Human Development in business for the entire 20+ years I have known him. His thinking represents a unique blend of Eastern and Western philosophy as well as practical business, consulting, and entrepreneurial experience. Further, no one working in this field today can match his global perspective and experience: he speaks multiple languages and has lived on three different continents for decades at a time. Like the old EF Hutton commercials, when he speaks on human development, especially for multinationals, it’s a good idea to take heed.
His latest book, Measure of Man: Leading Human Development,
shines a light on what is coming at a speed that few are prepared for.
The key thrust of the book is that the systems being used to keep score
by individuals, businesses, and even countries are not only lacking,
but often counterproductive to stated aims.
In Aubrey’s view,
Human Development in particular is not getting the attention it needs.
You would be mistaken to think this is just Aubrey taking his lifelong
hobbyhorse out for a ride. This book was penned entirely in Asia where a
handful of countries and their businesses are home to and employ close
to half the world’s population. Those countries and businesses know
that developing their teams and citizens is a matter of survival.
Aubrey says that what is needed to thrust development into the
forefront are Key Development Indicators (KDIs). Right out of the gate
he contrasts KDIs with their well-known older brother, KPIs (Key
Performance Indicators). The KPIs used by businesses tend to be
short-term focused and dominated by actions and financials. Aubrey
argues even country measures like the Happy Planet Index are incomplete
as well. KDIs on the other hand, are longer-term, learning-oriented,
and focused on concepts like mastery, autonomy, purpose, and depth and
breadth of relationships. If Y = f (X), Aubrey believes happiness and
financial measurements are the outcomes or Ys of getting Xs like human
In thinking this way, he is in good
company. For example, a couple of years ago, much was being written
about how Shareholder Value creation was misguided. Former and current
CEOs like Jack Welch formerly of GE and Marc Benioff from Salesforce
were calling Shareholder Value “the dumbest idea ever.” Firms were more
than just shareholder piggy banks and had to invest in the development
of associates, invest in innovation, and invest in studying, delighting,
and winning over current and new customers. By almost requiring
companies to forego this long term thinking, an obsessive focus on
Shareholder Value creation actually ran counter to, well, shareholder
Aubrey’s book provides the road map for leaders
and companies looking to counter short-termism with a long term view on
development. He is a philosopher at heart so he approaches the
challenge with a wide lens. This is important and ensures that human
development does not get narrowly defined as something as trivial as how
many people have achieved a certain proficiency at Excel or one of the
latest stat packages or how many have had a performance review.
Measure of Man
lays out a taxonomy of development measures and provides multiple case
studies for how they are being applied by leaders and HR professionals.
The book highlights leaders who are leveraging KDIs effectively and
also those who are badly whiffing. Both types of case studies are
He also takes on the “HR as business partner idea”
and argues HR abandoned its core constituency (employees and their
capital D Development). HR can talk about business partnering until the
cows come home, but until they understand what human development is,
how to advocate for it, how to measure it, and how to change it, they
will be nothing more than a Management cat's paw.
view Bob’s frequent forays into philosophy as a weakness of the book.
In my view, this puts the book on the high ground while also remaining
practical. Further, there are a number of personal anecdotes that some
may choose to skim through. But again, to me, these reflect the fact
that he is writing from the marrow of his experience and not trying to
catch a trending wave just to get another book out there.
book finishes strong as the final few pages provide ten predictions for
coming shifts in Human Development. These predictions are in some ways
the payoff pitch and at the least are exactly what you want and expect
from a vanguard thinker writing from the front lines of where Human
Development is being wrestled with.
A final thought: If the
broad development of your team however large is an area of concern, you
would be ill-advised to think you have lots of time to begin putting a
foundation in place. In my view, all ten of Dr. Aubrey’s predictions
are “coming soon to a theater near you.” If you are not towards the
front of that line, you may not get a seat.