Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bullshit Jobs




It's been years since I've live blogged. But I'm at a session at the RSA with anthropologist David Graeber speaking about  Bullshit Jobs. So here goes:

People are often apologetic about what they do for a living - often because they're literally doing nothing. That's why you get people playing games and watching cat videos while they're working.

Robots have bee taking our work for 100 years or so but instead of redistributing work we've made unnecessary stuff up. This includes whole industries, things like corporate lawyers which don't really need to exist. The appropach is perpetuated by those in power buying loyalty of structurally unemployed by giving them false management positions. Clerical, administration and supervisory positions often seem to be the worst affected.

YouGov did a survey on this - 37% of people in the UK don't think they make a useful contribution to society. Note this is almost certain to be an under estimation of the true figure for the proportion of useless jobs.

It is an important issue for the economy and humanity - bullshit jobs make people miserable, leading to stree, anxiety and depression.

Graeber  suggests we need to rethink our assumptions around human nature. You would image someone paid well to do a bullshit job would be pleased with their income and free time. However they are often extra miserable because they know they are happy but think they should be.



Later:

I've been reflecting on my own experience of this and although I've never had a bullshit job, have had some bullshit experiences over the years:
  •  A bullshit student sponsorship assignment where it was difficult to get much done due to lack of interest from the sponsor
  • A bullshit working my notice when I was asked to go into the office even though I had no work to do there
  • One bullshit consultancy project very early on in my career designing an organisation for a new group to develop services to support other people helping employees delivering for their customers, which I just thought was so far removed from the firm's customers to be largely pointless (and cost countless millions of pounds) 
  • And another which for a short period involved working late into the evening writing a report we all knew nobody would ever read (the firm didn't pay overtime so my assignment partner didn't care)
  • A more recent bullshit consultancy project in a dysfunctional client who didn't want to listen to advice about their problems but wanted me to keep going to the end of the contract (and offered too high a day rate to turn down).

That's quite a long list and I found I started to think of more as I started to describe them. In fact I could possibly go on, but really don't feel like I want to.

And yes, these were all fairly miserable experiences.


I suspect and regret that I've also had a temp working for me in a bullshit job where we needed cover for peak activities but where there was not much to do for most of the time.


So although I thought many of Graeber 's points were over exaggerated, bullshit does happen. And I think his fundamental point is sound - we can do more and better. Job design (including the way that people are managed and supported) needs to be seen as more fundamental aspect of organisation design that it often is.

I also recommend David Bolchover's book which I think potentially provides a more balanced summary of the situation.

Interested in the agenda? Come to this training on Job Design for Good Work and Increased Productivity that I'm delivering with Symposium later in the year (or I could deliver in house). I promise no bullshit!

And if it's appropriate, note that I consult on Good Work with the Work Foundation as well as independently.






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Thursday, 10 May 2018

#HRSummit2018 Rethink the Way you Work




I've really enjoyed being out in Singapore for this year's HR Summit. Actually I always enjoy being in Singapore. But I think another reason is that the conference has retained a focus on big, strategic issues, mostly related to HR in the 4th industrial revolution (being badged here as HR 4.0), more effectively than most conferences I've been to over the past few years. (I find most of these events have had peaks and troughs but this one has generally managed to keep at the peak level.)

I also enjoyed speaking both days at the event. I didn't really plan it this way but in hindsight, my inputs have focused quite tightly on the main conference theme and hashtag of 'rethinking the way you work'. For me this is about alignment - working out what we need to achieve, which will probably be different to what we've achieved in the past, then what qualities / outcomes we need to create in our people and organisation to do this, then what HR activities we need to use or change to make this happen.

In my first session I suggested all things 4.0 are moving people towards greater specialisation but that increasing complexity requires these specialists to be brought together in teams, other groups and networks. This makes these groups, and the relationships between people working in these groups, more important, and potentially more important than the individuals themselves. We need to focus on social capital rather than human capital.

Conference attendees seemed to agree with me - 90% suggested the way their people work together is more important than the quality of the individual employees.



This means that we should be developing our HR processes to produce these outcomes rather than the ones we used to need, ie they now need to support and enable groups and relationships rather than individuals.

But they don't do they? What do we measure, manage, develop and reward? 65% of my session attendees suggested their processes still focus on individuals, not teams and other groups. (And this is the most highly aligned set of scores across all the sessions I've asked people these two sets of questions.)



I also suggested that the way we support groups needs to change depending of the nature of the group. My best example of doing this came from Titansoft and the development of their non-conventional HR practices to support the company's agile IT teams.





Similarly to the examples I described in my own session, I thought these were some great, and even better, greatly aligned, HR practices for the type of groups (horizontal teams) used by this company.  Ie for me, it's not the non-conventional practices themselves which I'd suggest you use, it's the selection of the practices to fit the need of the type of group, and the focus on group vs individual (eg team vs individual based performance management).


In my second session  I argued that groups are so important we need to do more than align HR processes with the type of group, we also need to incorporate the highest priority type into our organisational structure.  When these groups are communities and networks we need to do this very carefully. We can't tell people in a community what to do, and as soon as we try, we've no longer got a community. But I also think these groups, which most people see as informal, are today often too important not to be formalised as part of the structure.

My suggestion, to continue the alignment, is that structure, and hence form of the organisation, should be based upon the main elements in my organisation model, the Organisation Prioritisation Model (OPM).

I asked my session attendees which of the element are most important in their organisation. Perhaps not too surprisingly, in this audience, although actually still quite surprisingly, 90% suggested the most important element are people, with the others responding the connections and relationships between the people. Ie we need to invest in our people, and their relationships, in order to achieve quality processes and business excellence, in order to deliver work and support customers. Customer results are a result of looking after our people, not the main aim itself.



For me, the type of group(s) we structure around should link to the priorities of the above elements. Work focused organisations should use horizontal project teams. Infrastructure based organisations should use simple groupings (functions). People companies should use communities (I loved Tanvi Gautam's suggestion that digital is all about human and a core human need is community.) Connection organisations should use distributed networks.

Yet again that doesn't seem to be what we do. Most (42%) of attendees' companies are still organised based on functions, though communities do come second, on 29%.



That's actually really high! - I don't generally suggest companies just use communities but introduce communities to support their functions or project teams. And it's also not represented by the case studies in the conference.

So we've had loads of examples of horizontal project teams: Siemens, Amazon, Netflix, Titansoft (above).

We've not heard much about communities. Really just Lo & Behold Group. This is from their website: "We operate like one big close-knit, wacky family that works really hard but plays even harder as one. We take the time to get to know our people as individuals in order to tailor career paths based on their personality, interests and strengths. We have a deep faith in our people, so we arm them with the necessary know-how and create opportunities that stretch them, making their years with us not only fun, but also incredibly fulfilling. We term this a 'LAB-er's stretch potential.' "




I don't know if the people in their establishments work as communities, but I suspect so. And if people really are the most important element of our organisations, I'd like to see more of our companies operating a bit more like this too. 

And I don't think we've had any case studies on networks at all. And actually given that so much of what we've been talking about is concerned with digital technology, we should have done.

I was particularly concerned that in an otherwise excellent presentation on the use of digital technology, the HRD from Singtel suggested that digital was so important, they'd set up a department for it. Departments / functions may be the traditional and fall-back solution, but they're generally not the best fit solution for digital. A network would probably be a better idea.

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#HRSummit2018 - Strategic Organisation Design for the Digital Future of Work





And today at the HR Summit in Singapore I presented on the opportunities for strategic organisation design within the context of the digital future of work:



As the pace of change increases, the need to keep organisations aligned with business needs becomes all the more important.

However, we also need to think about organisations in new ways. Digital businesses require new roles, skills, and ways of working, and the employees undertaking this work need to be organised differently too.

Doing this right requires deeper, more strategic thinking, than many organisation design models and best practices suggest. The future of work is not as simple as moving from hierarchies to networks.

One of the main requirements is to align the choice of organisation form with the types of group which will be the highest priority for the business (including horizontal teams, communities, networks and platforms).


  • Why digital transformation is best seen as an organisation design challenge, and how organisation forms are changing
  • Practical guidance on how businesses can be more deliberate in building the types of organisations they need without getting lost in vague notions around culture or in out-of-date or non-strategic models, tools and approaches
  • How physical workplaces and digital workspaces need to be seen as elements within organisation design - HR needs to establish closer relationships with colleagues in Property and IT
  • To ensure that HR processes can be aligned with the types of group selected as the 'highest priority' and used as the main basis for organisation design, creating alignment with key business needs as well as new design opportunities


I hope you enjoyed the session if you were there.




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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

#HRSummit2018 - HR in The Social Organization



I presented today at The HR Summit in Singapore on the HR consequences of working in a social organisation, including that:
  • HR is different when focusing on relationships and groups than when focusing on individuals
     
  • HR is different when supporting each of the different types of group / network.





Today, organisations succeed or fail - not because of individual performance, but because of overall group performance. While the war for talent might bring great people into a company, the value of these people depends on them being connected together in the right way.

In a hyper-connected world where the workforce is ‘always-on’, organisations should aim to create value from the connections, relationships and conversations between their employees to drive higher performance and achieve greater results.

Leaders and HR departments therefore need to shift their focus from individuals to the teams and networks in their organisations, from knowledge workers to relationship workers, therefore enabling their organisation to compete through employee relationships.

  • How and why HR and others responsible for talent management need to foster and develop social capabilities
  • Practical guidance for developing higher quality connections and social capital by improving the alignment and effectiveness of HR and management activities
  • How HR and related professionals can identify and implement appropriate changes throughout the whole employee life cycle: including initial recruitment and job design, social learning, performance management, employee retention, talent management, organisation development and the role of social media and other technology as well as social analytics
  • A process for choosing the activities that will best suit your organisation’s required relationships


I hope you enjoyed the session if you were there.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Workplace by Facebook Live Video Q&A on The Social Organization / 2





This is the Facebook Live video recorded as part of my book launch at Facebook's UK HQ.

It explains why the selection of social technologies depends upon which of the four types of organisational group are the main priority.

And I discuss at the end of the video why Workplace provides an additional benefit in that once people are using it for community it’s then easier to extend its use to cover projects, grouping and broader networking, rather than using separate tools for all these functionalities.

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Workplace by Facebook Live Video Q&A on The Social Organization




I'm doing a Q&A on The Social Organization with Workplace by Facebook, one of the main social technologies I write about in my book, and which are picking up loads of new clients with great adoption levels.

We're planning to explore some of my ideas, including the role of communities and other social groups in organization design, and how social technologies can be aligned with these types of group, as well as other factors that can make them work effectively.

We'll also look at other enablers for the social organization including workplace design (workplace with a small w), innovated HR practices, individual, group and organization development, social leadership and communityship, and social analytics including social / organisation network analysis (SNA/ONA).

The Q&A is being held online at 4pm BST on Wednesday 18th October and you can register here: https://thesocialorganizationlive.splashthat.com (use the access code PIONEER). Please do join me.


You can also buy the book here: https://www.koganpage.com/product/the-social-organization-9780749480110 (use code AHRTSO20 for a 20% discount).



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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Sage Top 100 Global Business Influencers





I like this list because it's not just the usual list of HR people. Take a look…

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Ultimate A-Z of HR Gurus




Thanks to CakeHR for including me in their A-Z list of HR gurus.

Which of the other 'HR leaders and influencers' on the list do you know too?


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Monday, 18 September 2017

Next Generation Workplaces




Next week I'll be presenting IQPC's Next Generation Workplaces conference at Twickenham stadium (Tuesday 26 - Wednesday 27 September 2017).

I'll be speaking about the link between workplace design and organisation design:

Workplace design is increasingly being integrated with other disciplines, particularly HR and IT. This session will suggest, however, that the area which workplace needs to be most closely connected to is organisation design. An effective workplace, supporting broader organisational principles, can ensure that people can deliver more than they could elsewhere. An important example is the alignment of group spaces with the design of the organisation structure as well as the selection of social technologies. Hear about how a focus on outcomes, together with tighter partnerships across HR, OD, IT and Property / Facilities can extend the impact of a next generation workplace.


The conference is colocated with the Employee Experience conference and I'll be attending some of the sessions there as well.


Do let me know if you're a reader of Strategic HCM and you're going to be around...


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Friday, 15 September 2017

The Quality of Relationships




I've had an article on the social organisation published in the CIPD's Work journal:


"It's not just about the quality of individuals, but the relationships between them."


I also refer to the area I'm increasingly focused on, which extends slightly beyond the content of the book itself:


"We need to be able to navigate the complexities of these different types of group. How, for example, do we manage employee performance and reward people appropriately when they make different contributions - and have different levels of engagement and performance - within the four types of group (hierarchical functions, horizontal project teams, communities and networks)?"


If you have any thoughts or experiences on this I'd love to hear from you.

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