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Posts Tagged ‘Human resource management

Suspicious of poetry

As a young psychologist, I bought into the notion that psychology must tell us something that is not common sense.  Many leading psychologists still think this way.  I don’t think it is right.  The profession is setting itself apart from the world, above the world, beyond the world.   It is now other worldly.

We should be more like management scientists.  You know those tough guys who schedule the plans and manage the electricity grid so an airport never has more planes and people than it can cope with and the national grid doesn’t fall over when we all make supper at the same time?

Hard core scientists don’t set themselves up against common sense.  They support common sense.  Maybe they also read poetry.

Bridging the divide between poetry and management

That being said, maybe we need some prose to help people take the first steps.  Writing coach, Joanna Young, tweeted this Lao Tzu quote today.

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.

LaoTzu

The core of contemporary management thinking

Sounds soppy, but these words from 1500 years ago are the core of modern management thinking.

Kindness in words creates belonging and the possibility of collective efficacy.

Kindness in thinking leads to creativity and strategic clarity and hence provides the bedrock of common action.

Kindness in giving creates the common ties that allow resilience and flexibility.

Some time on Google Scholar and you will drown in academic references.

Leadership, management, human resource management

Leadership:  who are we journeying with and why are they essential to our journey?

Management: which way are we going and what can each of us do to help?

Human Resource Management: who feels secure with us and will be with us tomorrow?

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Our strengths are our connections to the environment

Our strengths are not in ourselves.  They are in our connections with our environment.  So says Ralph Stacey, complexity theorist at University of Hertfordshire.

What on earth does he mean?  Is this just some abstruse idea that I can safely ignore?  Is it some pop idea that it is not what you know, it is who you know?

Use systems theory to understand your business and take action!

I am going to explain this idea using ideas from MGMT101: very basic systems theory.

Imagine the world as set of concentric circles. Go on.  Draw them.  Draw three.

Outer circle : macro-environment ~ the cloud

The very outer circle is the big bad world ~ the macro environment ~ the cloud. This is where you do your PEST analysis. This is where we worry about Politics, Economics, Social Trends like birth rates and Gen Y and Technological Change like Social Media.  What is happening in the stratosphere of our lives?  It is important to know this stuff.  In the slow moving world of the 1950’s, it was possible to look up and do this once a year.  In this day and age, you should have a set of Google Alerts just for this purpose. If you are a large organization, you should have part of your intranet reserved for articles on these topics written by your own staff in their areas of expertise.

Outer circle but one : micro-environment ~ your pond

The next circle are your competitors ~ your micro-environment ~ your pond.  Who is in your pond?  This is where we use Porter’s Five Forces.  We think about what your customers actually want.  What are the benefits of our products and services (rather than our features).  We think about what it takes to get into this business (barriers to entry).  We think about the suppliers on whom we depend (and how much they or we call the shots).  We think about who else ‘wants in’ to the business ~ who are our competitors.  We think about what our customers could use as a substitute for our service our product.

The ecosytem of our pond is quite complicated and we are sometimes overwhelmed by thinking it out.  I’ve found two concepts really help.

  • Think of your lunch.  Who wants your lunch? The answer is often very surprising. After all, if scientists depend on government for their money, then they are in the businesses of public administration, government or politics.  This is usually an aha moment.
  • Think of the food chain.  We are often make jokes about being at the bottom of the food chain. Actually you want to be at the bottom of the food chain. If you are nobody’s lunch, then there is no reason for your existence.   Who dies if you die?  Often your existence is rather diffuse.  So let’s phrase that a little.  Who would be inconvenienced if you closed down? You can see why businesses try to create monopolies. They are safe if they are indispensable.  Here is another aha moment when you see clearly who are your allies in the great game of  commerce.

When we have our competitors (they want our lunch) and our customers (they eat us), we are on the way to describing the ecosystem of our pond.

Defining your micro-environment ~ your pond ~ is work that you have to do yourself

Both these questions about ‘lunch in the eco-system’ are hard to answer.  They are not like PEST which is common to huge swathes of people and answered in The Economist and other general sources like that.

These are questions you must answer.  I can suggest ideas. We can borrow ideas and insights from other people in the trade.  Occasionally we find a really good book on our business like Michael Riley’s Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Industry.  Mostly we have to sit down and answer

  • Who wants my lunch?
  • Who thinks I am their lunch?  Who depends upon me?

We need concrete answers.  Take photos for me.  Tell me what they had for breakfast and where they are are 2.17 in the morning.  Why that time?  Because you know them so well.

The third circle – who are you and what is your agenda?

With those concrete and specific answers we can define the next circle.  Who are you and what are your strengths?

Now we do the SWOT analysis.  What are your strengths ~ your internal capacity, or things that you do every day, that allow you to be who you are.  Your weaknesses ~ those things you wish you weren’t (but might just be the flip side of your strengths).  The opportunities ~ those things coming up that you really want to do.  Threats ~ those things upcoming that you want to get out of.  You SWOT analysis is just a fancy ‘to do’ list.

Your strengths are the things you like to do and that you probably did yesterday too.  That’s what makes us thing they are us.

But they are really a story that we tell ourselves about us.  That’s why we look partly at our inner talk. We have a story of who we are, who we secretly fear that we are, we we secretly want to be.   We will always have our secret fears and aspirations, but our happiest times are when most of our story is out in the open.

And what is our story?  It is the story of what we do with other people for other people while we are up against a threat (those who want our lunch!).  It is a playful story about people who are in this game ~ with us and against us.  Cheering us on and getting in the way!

We cannot tell this story with the story of the outer two circles.  We cannot tell this story with the story of our times – the PEST analysis. We cannot tell the story without the story of our pond – Porter’s Five Forces.

Our story is a story about real people.  You must tell me who those people are.

Your strengths are your participation in the game of life. Everything you say and everything you do, with real live people.

Tell me that story and I will show you a successful business and blossoming career.

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UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

In recent days, there has been a lot more traffic looking for advice on Human Resources Management (HR) in a recession.  Scott MacArthur posted a good practical list of issues and I weighed in on his post with two catch-all suggestions for opportunities presented by a recession:  Declutter and Build Relationships.

Strategic approach to HR in the recession

The recession is an opportunity for HR professionals to step and contribute strategically.  In the classical strategy paradigm,

  • we begin by looking at the macro economic environment.
  • Then we look at the micro-environment – what affects us and our competitors.
  • Next, we establish which strategic factors HR influences directly.
  • Finally, we drop down to our tactics.

Reach out beyond HR – think economics

HR Managers in large firms in today’s business climate have to start at the very top of the strategic process.   We are on the cusp of the most dramatic shakeup in business conditions in 70 or 80 years.  And, unfortunately, we will be lucky if it is only a recession.

I picked up a very good video this morning explaining how the credit crunch came about.  It uses the example of a pyramid of champagne glasses.  One of the first practical things you can do, is keep this link to help people in your company understand why the credit crunch happened, and why it is so serious.

Think beyond defence.  Lead.

As I write, I feel like one of the gloom-and-doom merchants we are hearing in the media.  I don’t feel the gloom-and-doom, as my previous posts on positive psychology and the best of Britain in this blog will show.

It does seem that business, and not just the banks, may have been dealing in classical pyramid schemes, and that major institutions, like the rating agencies, were utterly out of their depth.

The best of UK

But, we have another foundation to our society which is far more important than they.

I look to the creativity, the wit, the curiosity, and the plain initiative of the ordinary people of our country, and I look particularly to the spectactularly self-driven and honest Gen Y who are just coming into junior management positions.

Boomers and older Gen Xers need to step up and lead!

Boomers and older Gen Xers should be showing clear leadership but I am not seeing a phalanx of senior executives coming together and providing a united front.  I am not hearing a clear cut strategy from politicians.  What I am seeing, or perhaps hearing as someone put it on the BBC, is a loud raspberry being blown at the bailout. The Icelandic prime minister talked of “each man for himself”.

I think our role, as HR managers, is to reverse this attitude, and facilitate clear leadership in each and every one of our organizations.

So how do we support leadership in this climate?

This is what I would be doing.

Facilitate the conversation

#1 Be in on the strategic meetings and facilitate full discussion.  Our job is to stop groupthink, and to keep the conversations grounded and positive.  Negative thought leads to tunnel vision.  Postive thought about collective action generates creativity and sustains morale.

Broker commitments and loyalty to employees

#2 Ask for clear commitments of what the company can guarantee employees in the worst case scenario.  People need a firm bedrock to push off against.

Engage employees in independent scenario planning

#3 With or without these commitments, ask employees to engage in scenario planning on their own account.

~ I can hear the panic – employees think and talk?  Yes, this is the right time for employees to think and talk.

~ I would set up a closed social network on a platform like Ning, and open it up for employees to post videos and discuss ideas directly with each other.

~ By using a social media platform, the discussion is out in the open, and executives are able to monitor morale, and pick up ideas from the very smart Gen Yers who will use the network most.

Our role, as ever, is to facilitate:

  • Get Gen Y to teach Gen X and Boomers networking skills.
  • Moderate any uncouth language.
  • Net etiquette is pretty strong and some diplomatic coaching will smooth away any rough talk very quickly.

Is this too pink when we need strong task leadership?

Why will these actions help fill the leadership gap?  In a phrase, collective efficacySelf-efficacy predicts the staying power of individuals.  Collective efficacy predicts the capacity of a group to overcome adversity.

Collective efficacy is simply our belief in each other’s competence.  Social networks reveal the strengths of individuals across the organization.  We get to know each other, beyond our immediate workgroup, and we begin to appreciate the depth of talent around us.  Experts begin to explain complex ideas.  Non-experts listen, and display talents in their own areas.  Dumbing up, I like to call it.

Above all, we tend to get that jaw-dropping experience of “I didn’t know we are this good”.  Such insight generates the energy for the extra mile, the extra idea, the extra five minutes of patience, and ultimately the thriving that we hadn’t thought possible.

So how do we set up Ning?

It is easy (and free).  If you are unsure, or have never facilitated an online community before, there are experienced social media users the length and breadth of the UK.  For starters, contact SocialMediaMafia and ask them to direct you to a social media expert near you.  They will be happy to help.  This is the age and medium of the generous, the helpful, the connected.

And P.S.

If you are worried about talking about the economy and HR’s role, please do feel free to talk to me too.  This is the worst economic crisis in UK in the last 70, years but other countries have been through this depth of shake-up on a local basis.  I’ve been here before.

Collective efficacy is possible, and we in HR, are the people to fill the leadership vacuum, both online and offline.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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