No, not the next general election: the year. And yes, HR: we’re talking about you again. The steady drip of ‘anti-HR’ articles and the negative press is no doubt extremely tiresome, but to tackle this sensation, organisational needs must trump feelings of victimisation. And if there’s the perception of a dark grey cloud, there is also a silver lining. As Marc Coleman, founder and Managing Director of the Pan European HR Network, blogged in 2011 in a piece titled Most Important Function of the Future = HR:
The importance of talent management helps bring HR closer to the CEO. CFO asks his CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave the company?” CEO answers, ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
But as the Boston Consulting Group report, The Future of HR in Europe: Key Challenges Through 2015, pointed out back in 2007, the five key challenges that it identified:
Aren’t just the capabilities that executives expect to be the most important in managing human capital during the period 2010-2015. They are also the capabilities that executives told us that their companies were currently weakest in – and this needed to focus their efforts on improving. In short, European companies stand to gain the most if they can master these five HR challenges; they also have the most ground to cover in these capabilities.”
Writing about business, like much of business behaviour, tends to shy away from anything that we might classify as cynicism: the power of positive thinking is, perhaps, too pervasive an influence. Monty Python once sang the words “When you’re chewin’ on life’s gristle, don’t grumble give a whistle/And this’ll help things turn out for the best”, and they might not be out of place in The Company Song, if company songs were the kind of thing we still did.
Which is why I was surprised – in a refreshing sort of way – to read Jamie Duck being quoted at Jon Ingham’s Strategic HCM Blog, talking about change management and behavioural change:
By now, the troops have been through so many of these programmes that they’re sceptical. Companies today are full of ‘change survivors’, cynical people who’ve learned how to live through change programmes without really changing at all. The new programme is just another management fad in an endless series of management fads.”
A wise man once said – as they are prone to do – that
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.
The wise man in question was Martin Luther King. While his prowess on the football field is perhaps not as legendary as that of Albert Camus, he was undoubtedly a man who inspired and brought about change, and we suspect that he might well have joined in the applause of over 450 L&D professionals and experts at the Training Journal Awards 2012 last night.
The football reference should, I hope, become clear when we congratulate the winners of the Award for Change Management, sponsored by ASK:
1st Brighton & Hove Albion FC/American Express Community Stadium/360 Degree Vision™
2nd Bidwells LLP
3rd Luton Borough Council
The winning learning partnership scored a victorious hatrick on the night, as they also won the Awards for Leadership and Learning Partnership, impressing the judges with an approach that was so well aligned with the culture of the organisation that it achieved rapid growth and increased turnover five-fold.
Our warm congratulations to a fantastic team who can add a new word to their trainer’s lexicon of ‘Aim’ and ‘Objective’: Goooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllll!
At his johnponders blog, John Greco recently published a fine contribution – An Unlikely Change Management Essential – that highlights an attribute of leadership we’ve also previously tried to give more attention than is often the case: empathy. Although change management is the particular vehicle that John has linked it too, empathy – in the sense not just of awareness of your specific impact of others, but also of the fact that others can and do feel impacted – is a skill that can escape a leader’s radar all too easily.
There is a fine quote from Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of international best-seller Emotional Intelligence:
If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
ASK’s second Breakfast Briefing at BAFTA, which took place on 29 June, was another highly successful event, combining opportunities for attendees not only to learn from the experiences of clients with whom ASK has been working, but also to participate in breakout discussion sessions on a range of topical themes.
Where we focused on topics relating to talent management at the 2011 BAFTA Breakfast Meeting, this year’s event was designed specifically to stimulate thought, interest and debate around the topic of Organisational Effectiveness, with contributions and insights from several of our client organisations.
Ah yes, January. Bit of an opinion divider as months go. Some of us are raring to go, all ‘out with the old and in with the new’ – purging ourselves of brandy butter and port, and filling the void with earnest resolutions. Some of us are closer in sentiment to an old Flanders and Swann song:
Dark November brings the fog/Should not do it to a dog.
Freezing wet December, then/Bloody January again!
My own take on resolutions is probably closer in spirit to an Oscar Wilde quote – “The basis of optimism is sheer terror”. The spur to think about changing things springs predominantly from the horror of the idea of more of the same old same old. Which in turn requires a modicum of awareness that things could at the very least be different, and possibly better. Faced with thinking or feeling “Uh oh, here we go again”, one answer is to go somewhere different.
Described – almost before it had finished – on Twitter by one attendee as “excellent discussions, networking and thought-provoking keynote sessions at the BAFTA headquarters today”, we’re hugely proud to say that the ASK/MDA Breakfast Briefing was as glittering as its surroundings.
With over 100 people in attendance, the thought-provoking keynote sessions were delivered by Dave Roycroft, Global People Development Consultant at Invesco Ltd (who shared a platform with ASK’s Elaine Wilson, highlighting the success of the company’s Investment Leadership Program and the role of ASK’s tASK simulation), and Pat Taylor of the National Audit Office, who outlined the progress of NAO’s Direct Programme, where the organisation has partnered with an ASK Project team led by Naysan Firoozmand to design and deliver a comprehensive assessment and development programme to identify, select and develop staff within the company with the greatest potential to be promoted to Director within 24 months.
The keynote sessions were followed by breakout sessions, led by consultants from both ASK and MDA:
- Talent Management
- Executive Coaching
- tASK (ASK’s unique business simulation methodology)
- Learning Transfer and Application
- Executive Assessment
We’d very much welcome the feedback of those that attended – please just add a comment to this post to let us know elements of the sessions you valued the most.
If you weren’t able to attend, but would like to know more about ASK’s offerings in any of these areas, please contact us.
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A few days ago, I was one of a group of 15 or so that were treated to a guided tour of the factory of an internationally renowned UK company that produces(amongst other things) amplifiers for musicians. The group largely compromised people working in IT-based roles, including web design and 3d modelling. Although the company we were visiting undoubtedly scores high on the ‘cool place to visit and get shown around’ scale, it was interesting to watch the group’s reactions on the ‘I was expecting digital everything’ scale – especially as a guitar player. (And even as a guitar player who has loyally used a different brand of amplifier for decades, but never mind …)
Apart from premium range products that are entirely hand-wired (and there are a surprising number of wires – and transistors and diodes and capacitors and so on – in an amplifier), production processes have adapted to the time-saving, productivity enhancing approaches that technological advances have brought about. There’s an undeniable logic: given a pattern to work to (just as a human operator would be), a machine can make considerably more solder joints per minute. Another machine – albeit a large, complicated and expensive one – can assemble a large, complicated circuit board much more quickly too. The time side of the triangle gets drastically shortened, the quality side is unaffected, and decisions to automate can be made on the basis of cost equations (how soon would the investment cover its costs, what are on-going costs of maintenance and upgrades, etc.)
There’s been quite a lively debate at Business Week, where two contributors – and a long list of commenters – indulged in some weighty mutual executive briefcasing (handbagging just didn’t sound right) in response to the question: “Multi-dimensional organisational design (Matrix) is the best way to restructure a business. Pro or con?”
In the Pro corner, Jay Galbraith argues for the value, inherent merit and – in today’s trading environment – the inevitability of the victory of a collaborative approach over a command and control variety. In the Con corner, Guido Quelle sees matrix organisations as painfully slow, lacking clarity and clear lines of responsibility. Verbal bruisings have been administered and received on both sides but there’s been no knock-out punch: anyone hoping to see the late, grand old man, Peter Drucker holding the limp wrist of one argument aloft and counting to ten would be disappointed.
Sorry for the rather un-festive title, but it’s triggered by reading a fascinating article at Harvard Business Review’s blog – Employees See Death When You Change Their Routines. It seems our sense of mortality is built on three pillars – consistency, standards of justice and culture – that the authors (James R Bailey and Jonathan Raelin) describe as existential buffers. The authors cite examples of actions that can undermine each of these, but the essential message – change knocks away one or more of those pillars and reminds us that all things (including, most importantly, our self and our sense of self) are transitory. Change is therefore perceived as threatening, and it is understandable that we therefore respond with ‘fight or flight’.
It’s a story of investment, in an emotional and psychological sense. Aware of our own mortality, we play down our own fears by using culture (in the broadest sense) to give us a sense of meaning, organisation and continuity, and to create feelings of belonging, security and self-esteem. Provided, of course, that we engage with and buy into the cultural values and standards in question. (And even those who see themselves as ‘outsiders’ have a perceived sense of something that they are outside: you can’t be outside something you don’t see as being there.)