5 Questions: Interview with Dr. John Boudreau

For those that have read my post, Not an Ordinary Consulting Firm, Dr. John Boudreau’s name will sound familiar. It was in his class that I discovered Root, Inc., and got into the world of management consulting.

Professor Boudreau has been kind enough to be my first interviewee in a new interview blog post series I will call 5 Questions.

Without further ado, here are my five questions and Dr. Boudreau’s five answers.

Billable Percentage: As a management team comes up with a strategy, at what point does and should the organization’s current talent makeup, and future talent makeup come up?

Dr. Boudreau: Talent, work and how it is organized should come up very early.  Often new strategy directions can actually emerge from understanding the talent that exists, and the new talent that can or cannot be attracted.  Even if the talent inventory doesn’t reveal new strategic directions, it may reveal limits to the short-term strategy directions.

Billable Percentage: To the layman, what is the future of HR and what does it mean for his/her career?

Dr. Boudreau: Future HR will be much more about configuring and reconfiguring work than about static HR programs.  Thus, it will be much more embedded in the daily tasks of workers and leaders.

Billable Percentage: Do you have any new theories and thoughts in the world of HR that you’re working on and are able to share?

Dr. Boudreau: See my blogs and writing on:

Lead the Work
Work Deconstruction 

Billable Percentage: I hope I didn’t butcher your theme park engineer example in my little introductory article! Any corrections or thoughts you would like to add there?


Let’s say you want to hire an engineer to make an amusement park ride. What’s something any hiring manager says they want?
“I want the best engineer.”
But if you really think about it, do you really need “the best engineer”? Doesn’t it depend on what type of ride you’re making?
Let’s compare two amusement parks to see what I’m getting at. Let’s choose Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain (a roller coaster park). Let’s also give two skills the engineer needs: a) engineering skill and b) storytelling skill.
First: Disneyland.
Disneyland engineers, are “Imagineers” (I think) and are responsible for not only engineering the ride, but making it in a way that helps tell a story. At a certain level, it doesn’t matter how good of an engineer you are if you can’t tell a story with the ride. So, in reality, you just need an engineer that is 80% good at engineering, but 100% good at storytelling.
Now: Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Six Flags engineers on the other hand, need to be the best damn engineers on the planet. They need to test the laws of physics, but ensure that nobody dies. And when all is said and done, all they need to do from a storytelling standpoint is stick a name on the ride and paint the ride a bright color. So in the case of Six Flags engineers, they need to be 100% good at engineering, and just 20% good at storytelling.

Long story short, it was an awesome class.

Dr. Boudreau: Looks good. This is kind of the “extreme” version.

Billable Percentage: Where can people go if they would like to learn more about your work?

Dr. Boudreau:

Other Info on Dr. John Boudreau:

Center for Effective Organizations

Steven Choi works for Root Inc., a strategy execution company. He is grateful for the opportunity to have learned from one of the leaders in the future of Human Resources.

2 thoughts on “5 Questions: Interview with Dr. John Boudreau”

  1. Not sure if this is collaboration as much as it is a request for advice: I was wondering, when it comes to your work, how do you (personally) deal with the usual nagging, existential questions–that is, when you feel unmotivated or tired, how do you stay motivated and what is your ultimate objective or mission?

    I’m currently working a moderately interesting job at a mature tech company that tons of people would kill to work at, and I have caring, collegial co-workers–and to top it off, I have an awesome boss who cares about me personally and professionally. But it’s also a very stressful and demanding job where I work with extremely intelligent and high-achieving people, so I often fall victim to “imposter syndrome.” I also feel like I’m often behind on my work. As a result, I often lose motivation and/or consider jobs at other companies, which seems bizarre to me, because in almost all respects, this is my dream job. Can you offer some thoughts?

    1. Hey – thanks for the comment and question. I’ll try to dedicate a separate post to this, but here are my initial thoughts.

      Everything is relative to everyone. I believe that happiness is a combination of two things: perspective and your personality.

      In terms of perspective, I am thrilled to have the job I have because of my experience at my previous employer. Don’t get me wrong, it was a valuable opportunity where I was humbled immensely and learned a lot, given I clawed tooth and nail to get A job for a year after graduating in 2009. I am armed with that reference point as I sit in an airport today, happy and energetic enough to be writing this comment back to you after a sales trip with a potential client. If I hadn’t had that experience at my previous employer though, I could very well be sitting in this airport miserable that I am in an airport. It’s all perspective.

      Putting that into the framework of your life – you work at what seems like a pretty cool job, but if you don’t have a reference point, you aren’t going to have the perspective to know what it is like to not have that job. I don’t know what reference point you had of if you have one, but my guess is whatever it was before this, it wasn’t HORRIBLE. If it was horrible, then you probably wouldn’t feel this way.

      In terms of stressful and demanding and demand, I would like to also bring that back to perspective. Is it as hard as roofing a house in 120 degree weather in Texas? Is it mining for oil and coal where you need a canary to make sure you don’t die of black lung? Is it more stressful than not having a job? Once again it comes back to perspective!

      In terms of the “imposter syndrome,” that comes to the question “Are you?” Nobody but you feels that. If you aren’t an imposter, then forget about it. If you don’t feel like you’re as “qualified” as your peers, I’d say double down, work hard, and feel happy that you have that opportunity!

      Finally, I’d like to touch on the idea of personality. I tend to have a happier outlook on life. Maybe I can only have that because of my experience in the past, but at this point, it is who I am. I don’t know how much this point helps, but if you have a more sadder disposition, I would say to work on that!

      Hopefully that helps.

      Thanks again,


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