Tuesday 26 January 2010

The Social Revolution – processes to networks


Process design   I posted a couple of times fairly recently (1, 2) on the social revolution discussed by Andrew McAfee in one of his Enterprise 2.0 posts.

In my last post, I probably went a bit too far, arguing that there doesn’t need to be a move from hierarchical organisational structures to networks.  But in some ways, there does.

Hierarchies and structures in general receive too much attention.  As I wrote in my last post, leaders and managers tend to think about hierarchies when they’re redesigning organisations and teams, but it really isn’t the most important aspect of an organisation, and certainly isn’t the only one.

So structures do deserve less attention, and networks don’t receive enough.

As I also noted in my last post, I didn’t use to think about the network aspect of organisation design at all, but I certainly wasn’t the only one – and I suspect most people designing organisations today still don’t.

We do need to put more emphasis on networks and I’ll describe why shortly.

First though, to perhaps explain the point from my last post a little bit differently, I accept, and reinforce, that the social revolution requires more focus on networks.  I just don’t believe it’s about replacement of one with the other.  They both have their place within organisation design.


See also this recent post from CV Harquail on Authentic Organisations.  I’ve not read Barley & Kunda, so I’ve no idea whether I’m interpreting their remarks correctly, and whether their views support or conflict with mine, but I do like the quote:

“Hierarchy is a property of a network’s structure, not something that a network replaces.”


Anne Marie McEwan’s comments on the same blog post resonate with me as well.

Anyway, on with the post:


3.   If networks are replacing anything (and they aren’t), it isn’t corporate hierarchies, it’s business processes

I’d argue that the real change we need to make in organisation design (rather than how well organisation design is done) is a move from processes to networks.



Processes are traditionally the building blocks of organisations.  They specify how work needs to get done and accountabilities for doing this.

And although I’m saying we need to move towards networks, I don’t think we should move away from processes.  I think this is an area of organisation design that HR, and organisations in general, could be a lot more skilled in than they are.

See this piece from my book:

“One of the other examples of creating value HCM approaches I quite often use, particularly where I’m developing HR teams, is creating organisation capital through business process design.  It’s a good example for a number of reasons: it’s a key area of organization design that many companies forget about; often no other functions have responsibility for it; and it calls on many of the skills that HR professionals already have.

However, it’s also an area that provides HR with a wonderful opportunity to mark out their new role. Often the first time an HR business partner offers to support a business client to redesign their business processes, they get told to go away and come back once the manager has done the redesign, and they know how many redundancies they need. It gives HR a great opportunity to respond back that no, this is not what they mean.

They have a methodology and particular skills to help facilitate the development of better processes. It gives them an opportunity to point out that there is a separate administration
centre that handles the redundancies – this is not their job.’”


(Also see this post on process design.)


However, processes only work well for repetitive and especially production oriented work.  They apply less well to work that is complex, changeable, knowledge based, creative, people focused and so on – ie to a rapidly increasing proportion of the work that people do today.



What governs this type of work is the network.  It’s who people talk to in order to get input, support or get things done.  And it’s messy – it can’t be laid out in process terms.

This is the main reason that networks are becoming a more, if not the most, important element of organisation design.

So the shift isn’t from structures (hierarchies) to networks, it’s from processes to networks.  Hierarchies can carry on pretty much as they have done before.  But networks are different to processes – they can be designed in the same sort of logical way (see slide).

I’m going to come back to post more about the analysis and design of networks shortly.  Stay tuned for more….




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Monday 25 January 2010

Josh Bersin on informal and social learning


   After a couple of years of phone and email communications (and a guest post), today I finally met up with Josh Bersin (and his colleague Allen Keetch).

Josh is in town for the Learning Technologies conference on Wednesday and Thursday, where he’ll be talking about informal learning.  Josh very kindly gave me a summary of his key points.


Transforming to a modern learning environment

The recession of 2000 catapulted e-learning forward as organisations rationalised their training and moved more on-line.  The current recession has kicked off informal learning.  At the same time, we have access to new social technologies.  These two factors have collided giving rise to a revolution in informal learning (Josh sees this as consisting of on-demand, social and embedded learning.

Trainers and instructional designers have always known that informal and social learning is the way people learn, but they’ve not spent any time on it.  They’ve tended to see their job as the formal stuff.  They now need to take on new disciplines, move to a new design paradigm and change their instructional design models – putting elements of social media into every development programme.

Social learning is a good thing for the learning / training industry, but it’s forcing practitioners to rethink – they’re past talking about what it is – but they’re still working out how they’re going to apply it – what’s their job – and whether they will have a job.

But it’s a bit like the rise of e-learning again.  L&D practitioners who ignored e-learning tended not to get involved.  It’ll be the same with social learning – practitioners need to get with it or they’ll become more irrelevant.


But why would someone read a blog?

After meeting Josh, I had another meeting and talked about this blog.  My contact responded that he’d read a blog once, but obviously wasn’t sure why he had, as he then asked “so why would someone read a blog?”.

Now, admittedly this person’s not in L&D, but he is a fairly high profile figure in the UK HRM and D world, and I don’t think his reaction was that different from that of many HR and L&D practitioners that I meet.

Perhaps this a difference between the US and UK, but whatever the reason, I don’t feel as positive about L&D’s sponsorship of social learning as Josh (or other speakers at the conference like Jane Hart).

And I think lack of understanding and involvement in social media is part of the problem with this.  So ’d encourage L&D (and HR) practitioners who want to get on top of social learning (and social HR) to get involved in using social media for themselves – it’s by far the best way to learn (mind you, I suppose the people this point applies to won’t be reading this anyway!).


Deepening cultural change

In Bersin’s recent report, ‘Enterprise Learning and Talent Management 2010’, Josh and his colleagues discourage L&D practitioners from acting on their own.  Social learning systems need to link with, align with and be integrated with those systems chosen by IT.

I think there’s a bigger issue than this too.  Social learning needs to link with other changes in the organisation.  It’s part of a more social way of behaving, of thinking, or working.  Learning – HR – Management – Enterprise 2.0.

So my advise would be not to start with learning – but with the need to be more social (nb meaning to focus more on relationships, not spend more time in the pub!).  See my Social Advantage blog for more thoughts on this.




Also see my post on social learning (vs learning socially – and why it involves more than just using social media)

Learning & Skills Group members can also view my Learning Technologies presentation from a couple of years ago at http://www.learningandskillsgroup.com/iptv.cfm – see under LT 2008 track 3.



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Sunday 24 January 2010

Being your idea generator


   Actually, there’s just one more thing resulting from the HRD Business Summit that I want to write about.

This is Ulrich’s breakdown of the roles that need to be involved in transforming HR:

  • Line managers (board of directors, executive team, all managers): Owners
  • Chief HR officer: Architect
  • HR for HR: Foreman
  • Employees: Self-reliance
  • Advisors: Idea generation


I think this (‘idea generation’) is absolutely the right role that advisors (consultants) should play.  And I’ve been reflecting further on my call for more insight in HR, and also my recent post on my own role and I want to write more about how I can act as your advisor to help you generate ideas.

This is likely to turn into a bit of an advertorial I’m afraid, but there are two reasons why you should stick with me.

The first reason is that although I increasingly receive revenues from writing, training, lecturing, speaking etc, advising (consulting) is still the main part of my portfolio.  Blogging, on the other hands, generates almost nothing (although if you’re interested in sponsoring this blog, click here).

So if you like this blog, it’d be worth scanning through the rest of this post, and thinking about the opportunities for consulting on strategic HR (creating and updating HR strategies, developing the strategic capabilities of your HR team, support on strategic programmes – in talent management , organisation development etc) within your organisation, or within your network.  More consulting = more blog posts, simple as that!

The second reason, which I guess may feel more important to you, relates to the type of ideas I can generate:


Ideas on HCM and HR2.0

I have what I think are some fairly well developed ideas about HCM and HR / management 2.0 – about how organisations can develop human and social capital for competitive advantage.

And I happen to think that these are some of the best, new ideas around.

You can read about these ideas, and about case studies of organisations that are starting to put them into practice, on this blog.

But in a consulting or training environment, I can provide that much more.  And please note that this doesn’t mean that I would try to do strategic HCM to you.  It simply means that we could have a look at the aspects of HCM or HR 2.0 which could add value to your organisation, and work on the activities that would bring benefits to you.

This might be looking at your capabilities, or your management model, identifying the practices that will create human capital, developing a strategy map or measurement scorecard, training your HR team (eg in the HCI HCS programme), or a number of other things.


Ideas about other peoples’ ideas

But I can help you understand other peoples’ thinking and approaches too.

I attend and present at conferences and webcasts, I travel and talk to people from different countries, I read and write books, I read and contribute to journals and magazines, I write and read blogs, I listen to and produce podcasts, I train HR teams, and I consult on strategic HR with leading organisations around the world.  I do all this so I can give you the broader insights that I think you need.

So in my last post, for example, I provided a list of thought leaders that I’ve reviewed previously on this blog.  My understanding of these ideas means that I can bring these into the generation process too.

This is something I don’t think many idea generators will do.  If you bring in Ulrich, he’s going to do Ulrich, you know the sort of thing.  He’s not going to do Cappelli, if he thinks that’s more what you need. 

I will do this for you.


Ideas on your opportunities

But of course, all of the above is just background.  It’s what you need to do that counts.

The real value you get from me isn’t HCM, and it’s not other’s peoples’ ideas, however appropriately provided.  It’s ideas about how you could develop your agenda in a way that’s unique to you – depending upon your objectives, context etc.  Your needs.

This is what I most love working on, and I can’t do it through a blog.

So if you really want to maximise the value you get from me, call me in.  And let’s get generating.


Picture credit (Cockcroft–Walton generator): Geni


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Insight and pragmatism


   The last area I want to discuss in my summary of the HR Directors Business Summit is the need for new insights in HR.

One of the key themes that seemed to me to be coming through from the presentations (despite Julian Birkinshaw’s input) was that HR is simple and that we don’t need any new ideas.  This theme seemed particularly strong in the panel session on the Tuesday afternoon, and in Martin Tiplady’s presentation on Wednesday morning looking at HR at the London Met Police and elsewhere:

“HR’s not rocket science – it requires speed and pragmatism.”


(Tiplady also seemed to question some of our existing ideas - “What was ever the point of competency frameworks?”.  It’s not a question I’m going to attempt to answer because I do struggle to get excited about competency frameworks myself, but this isn’t to suggest that they don’t – or at least can’t - provide a very sound basis for a company’s overall HR architecture.)


I think this push back against new ideas is a bit sad actually (I could see Tiplady’s 19th century policemen resisting progress in the same way – and look how far we’ve come in that profession).


HR isn’t just about good management

I completely support Ulrich’s point that HR is provided through line management, and that our people’s experience of HR is mostly down to to the way their manager line manages.  But even if we could do something to get every line manager to spend time with, be interested in, support and grow their people, there’d still be a need for more.


We need good HR strategies

Even with the best line managers in the world, there’d still be a need for HR professionals to develop strategies, tailoring these approaches in the right way according to their own business (their own capabilities, their own management models etc).  If you’ve got the wrong strategic approach (and let’s face it, in this area at least, most organisations don’t have much that’s right) then the best, most pragmatic execution in the world, isn’t going to get you very far (at least down the road you want to go).


You need some new ideas

On this blog, you’ll find new ideas from Dave Ulrich on leadership brand and HR transformation, John Boudreau on talentship / beyond HR, Henry Mintzberg on communityship, Lynda Gratton on hot spots and glow, Gurnek Bains on meaning, Gary Hamel on management innovation, Peter Cheese on talent powered organisation, CK Prahalad on innovation at the bottom of the pyramid, Peter Cappelli on talent on demand, Jac Fitz-Enz on HCM: 21 measurement, John Kotter on a sense of urgency, Ed Lawe on talent-centricity, Dicky Beatty on differentiated workforce, Tony Buzan on mind mapping, Andrew Mayo on HCM measurement, Nick Baylis on happiness, Emmanuel Gobillot on leadership, Jim Collins on greatness, David Guest on HR measurement and many more besides.

Some of these ideas I agree with and some I don’t.  Some of them agree with other ideas but most of them don’t agree with all.  Ed Lawler’s and Peter Cappelli’s ideas on talent for example, are very different things.

This is important.  If you’re going to optimise the strategy you develop for your business, you need to understand these ideas, and know which ones best fit your particular organisation’s needs.

And you need to be on the look out for new ideas which can help give you additional competitive edge.

It’s time for new thinking.  It’s time to take note of new ideas.


Talking of time, I’ve now run out of time to post on anything else from the HR Directors Business Summit!  But thanks to Tim Taylor from TUI, Allison Campbell from Bacardi, Stefan Tonnon from Progress Software and Jacqui Summons from Intec for your time, and for sharing your own ideas and experiences with me.  It’s much appreciated and I hope I can return the favour some day.


Picture credit: Met archives


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Saturday 23 January 2010

Human Capital Strategist (HCS) Certification


Update January 2011: I’m no longer delivering the HCS certificate for the HCI.  However, I am delivering great value and high impact human capital strategy workshops for teams of HR practitioners within organisations.  Contact me for more….


I’ve posted previously to let you know that I’m now delivering the Human Capital Institute’s Human Capital Strategist certification course in UK and Europe.  There’s some great new information about this programme on HCI’s new website, http://www.hci.org, and I’ve copied this down here:




Master the new business science of strategic talent management, and prove your expertise with HCI's Human Capital Strategist (HCS) Certification. HCS is the recognized credential for strategic knowledge in the Human Capital field and is an important career achievement for Human Resources, Organizational Development, Recruitment, Corporate Learning and Line executives.

Talent is the only sustainable advantage in a global knowledge economy, and integrated talent management strategy and practices are now central to business results. HCS provides the foundational framework, practical application and tools to move the needle in your organization and career.


HCS Corporate Training

Human Capital Strategist (HCS) Certification and Master HCS Designation programs are available for teams of up to 20 participants onsite at your facility. Curriculum and content are tailored to your organizational objectives, and training is delivered at a significant discount to the cost of public classes.


HCS Outcomes

Transform The Way You Think About Talent
Managers and organizations are accustomed to thinking about people in industrial economy terms, and within the bureacracy of organizational silos. HCS graduates understand the knowledge economy paradigm of integrating talent management leadership and practices across the enterprise.

Broaden Your Human Capital Expertise
Strategic Human Capital and Talent Management span recruitment, HR, OD/Learning and the Line. HCS graduates understand each practice across the talent lifecycle, and have the context to think strategically beyond the confines of their own traditional discipline.

Become a Strategic Business Partner
Human Resources and related disciplines must learn to communicate in the language of business. HCS graduates understand the vocabulary of business strategy, how human capital drives business success, and how to create value through their knowledge of strategic talent management.

Execute and Measure Results
The business science of Strategic Talent Management has moved out of the theoretical stage and into the field. HCS graduates go back into their organizations with proven best practices, new ideas and the tools to implement and measure them.

Advance Your Career
Administrative HR and related functions are being commoditized, outsourced and offshored. The future belongs to professionals who can demonstrate strategic capabilities and value to their organizations. There has never been a better time to change the game in your career, by taking a leadership role in this critical new discipline.

Transform Your Organization
Talent is the most powerful competitive lever in a new economy characterized by rapid change, accelerating product cycles, decelerating prices and worldwide disintermediation. HCS graduates are at the cutting-edge of this inflection point, and are leading the transformation to talent-driven business execution inside their organizations.

Get Certified!
HCS is a rigorous course of study, recognized by business and government organizations worldwide as the standard certification for Strategic Talent Management. HCS graduates are the first wave of leaders that understand, and can apply the principles of this new science to drive business results.

Stay Current
Rapid change requires continuous learning. HCS graduates are plugged into an ongoing stream of news, information, research and collaborative opportunities through alumni groups and HCI's Center for Human Capital Excellence.


Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) Designation

HCS graduates are eligible to pursue HCI's Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) Designation, a distinguished achievement recognizing practical application of Strategic Talent Management principles. HCS candidates can now purchase the HCS and MHCS programs together and save over $200 on the bundle.



If you're in UK / Europe and you’d like more information on this programme, or other support to develop the strategic capabilities of your HR team, please contact me at jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com.



Julian Birkinshaw on Management Innovation


   A summary of Julian Birkinshaw’s presentation at the HRD Business Summit:

Things have changed.  Knowledge rather than financial capital is now the scarce resource and this means we need to focus on creativity and innovation rather than replicability.  But management hasn’t changed – we need to innovate it.

A company’s management model (as opposed to its business model) may be the best place to innovate.  There’s lots of opportunity here, because most organisations don’t think about whether their management models are appropriate.  So Lehman’s management model and practices for example incentivised the employee population there to do exactly the wrong things.  They lapsed into things that didn’t work.  We need to be clearer about what our management models are and change our concepts about the way large industrial companies are organised.

We also need to pay more attention to management.  Julian calls the initiative he runs with Gary Hamel at London Business School the Management Lab (MLab) rather than the Leadership Lab for this reason.  Many organisations today are over-led but under-managed - a point Christopher McLaverty made in relation to BP’s transformation post Lord John Brown:



But management is still associated with the concept of management in a hierarchial corporation.  We need to sever this link.

Some new ideas:

  • Break away from the traditional view of alignment
  • Understand that obliquity – going round something – may be the best way to get there
  • Harnessing the wisdom of crowds
  • Building ethics and honesty back into business
  • Pursuing happiness
  • Removing clutter (eg when organisations strip out performance management systems most people figure out what they should be doing).



In Birkinshaw’s (and my) perspective, HR Directors are the people best placed to enact management innovation.  What are you going to do about it?


Some resources:


I’m going to be interviewing Julian about his new book, Management Experimentation, in mid-March, so watch out for a post on this too.





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A bit more on Capabilities from Thomas Stewart, New Balance, White & Case and KFC


   I had a chat with Thomas Stewart after his keynote at the HRD Business Summit on Tuesday.

We first discussed how his organisational capabilities relate to David Ulrich’s.

I explained that, to me, his capabilities seem quite like Gary Hamel’s and CK Prahalad’s core competencies.  For him, the two ideas are different because his have more focus (‘they talk about 20 to 30 core competencies’ – and ‘they don’t think in terms of systems’).

However, Stewart did agree that his capabilities are different to Ulrich’s, and this is because his own definition includes people and other things – although he also thinks Ulrich’s work on Leadership Brand comes closer to his own approach.

Mmm.  Maybe.  But I still think the analysis I provided in my last post is correct.


Secondly, we talked about examples of organisations’ capabilities which focus specifically around relationships between their people, ie social capital, and I’ve posted on this part of the discussion on my Social Advantage blog.


The other thing I wanted to do here is mention briefly some of the capabilities that some of the speakers seemed to be developing in their organisations (not that they were necessarily thinking or talking about it in these terms):



New Balance

Paul Kennedy from New Balance described the capabilities of this UK based manufacturing firm as its external relationships with customers (as well as sports people, the military and so on) which allow it to directly replenish stocks and customise orders etc.  To develop these deep relationships externally the company needs good internal relationships with its people too.

So it has invested in learning and teaming, for example:

  • Introducing online learning resource centres linked to NVQs to open up peoples’ minds to learning
  • Providing skills to work across jobs in the factory
  • Closing the factory and taking all staff on two offsites to discuss their issues and ask for their ideas (they suggested reducing teams from 6 to 4 people) – empowering them to create their own future history and giving them confidence to take action
  • Building cross-functional groups.



White & Case

Kate Griffiths-Lambeth White & Case described the capability of White & Case as specialism in international legal issues supported by experience in multijurisdictional issues in numerous legal systems.

This specialism makes recruitment more difficult, as does the company’s fast growth taking it to 600 lawyers in London.  So this has meant more focus in this area – looking for more people with the specialist skillsets required.  And also specific actions in other areas too, for example one of their award winning benefits is health screening – given the risk of skin cancer for those people who have been working in places that get a bit more sun than here!




Misty Reich from KFC described Stewart as a ‘kindred mind’ and her own company’s strategy as well aligned with his thinking on capabilities.  Her point in particular is that HR strategy needs to match the stage of growth your company is in.

KFC UK has 22,000 mostly hourly employees (it is part of Yum Brands with over 1m employees) and has 782 restaraunts which is growing by 30 to 40 restaraunts per year.  This means its main capability is being great at recruitment (or, since this is an activity, not an outcome, something about having the people available enabling it to grow).

Expectations are changing –“Gen X / Gen Y doesn’t know who to interact expect through technology”.  And it will get to a point that it will be awkward to turn off technology when wanting to explore employment.

But companies don’t currently make good use of this.  We’ve been recruiting online for 15 years and 78% of Uk employers now use corporate websites and 29% use commercial job boards for candidate attraction (but mainly just for perusal not online application ie there’s no power behind this).  And only 7% use social media for candidate attracting and networking – people don’t know what to do about social media.

So this has provided KFC with an opportunity to gain a competitive edge.  They have brought recruitment back in-house and made people experts in recruitment, supported by technology.





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Friday 22 January 2010

First names or second?


    One of the other things Tommy Weir talked about was the need to be sensitive to status issues. That in the Middle East he allows his bags to be carried by someone for example, so as not to be seen as inferring that he’s unworthy to have his bags carried for him.  And I also thought it was interesting that he was referred to in the agenda as simple Tommy Weir, whereas in the UAE, I’ve only ever come across him addressed as Doctor Tommy.

This got me thinking further, particularly when I wanted to refer to him again later in my post – ‘Tommy suggested’?  ‘Weir suggested’?  ‘Dr TW’?

I quite often struggle with this one in my posts.  And I’ve noticed that I’ve tended towards first names for people that I’ve met (face to face or by 2.0), and second names for who I’ve not.  But then there’s a whole heap of other factors that influence this too.  Even after my meeting with him, Thomas Stewart still seems like a Stewart than a Thomas because he’s a bit older than me, and has published more, and more successful, books.

In general, I prefer first names (I still feel uncomfortable when recalling my American boss who called me Ingham to my face) but then this may just be me.

Do you have any guidance here?  Which do you prefer?  Do you care?  Let me know if so.



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Thursday 21 January 2010

Kenexa Leadership seminar: leading change; changing leadership


   Busy day today with a couple of afternoon appointments following a seminar on leadership hosted by Kenexa, ‘The Science of Outcomes’.  Despite the title, the key theme for me was the emerging / additional aspects of leadership.  MC’d by Kenexa’s Director of Consulting, Dave Millner, the presentations focused on:



Leadership in a Social World

Matt Alder (recruiting futurologist, who I met recently at a Changeboard event, and will be working with again soon at TRU London 2) presented on social media and the connected organisation.

Social media is changing the way people buy things, the way they complain, and the nature of brands (“it’s like word of mouth on steroids”).

It’s changing corporate communication, recruitment and other HR practices.  In fact, it affects every area of your organisation – the opportunities are enormous.

So it’s a strategic issue, not a policy one (although having an appropriate social media policy is important too).  And the threats of not participating significantly outweigh the threats of doing so.

In response to my question, Matt explained that in his view, one new challenge for leadership in this environment is about responding to the connected generation (Gen Y) who are used to using these new social channels.  This requires leaders to understand the opportunities provided by the new techniques which are fuelling these generational differences.


For more on social media and the connected [social] business, see my other blog, Social Advantage.

And for comments on leadership in this environment, see my reviews of Emmanuel Gobillot’s two books.



Developing Leaders in Emerging Markets

Tommy Weir (VP of Kenexa’s Leadership Solutions and author of CEO Shift who I met at his former employer, Nakheel, on one of my trips to Dubai, and is pictured above) presented on what expat (and local) leaders need to understand about leading in emerging markets.

Just as with developed markets, success in leadership is about knowing your employees, and there are some considerable differences in employee perspectives in countries like UAE, China etc:

  • A youth bulge vs an aging population
  • A group orientation (in which life is designed to be a group) vs an individual orientation
  • A family mentality to business (where business has until very recently been conducted in an agrarian setting and in a family context) vs a corporate mentality
  • Informal learning (learning in small settings over a cup of tea) vs formal learning
  • Leader vs employee-centric (patriarchal societies in which an elder person has more status).



Changing Requirements

So if employees are different do leaders need to do something different?  Clearly, yes.  Tommy Weir took us through the following changes, which I think apply to the new social world as well:



Things aren’t necessarily going to be at your finger tips – you need the ability to connect different piece of information (think about the imagination needed to create the man-made islands in Dubai.



You need to know how to hold onto your talent.  Matt’s connected generation are used to pressing the reset button when playing computer games – and they have similar expectations in organisations too (in both developed and emerging markets).


Multilingual in one language

Just because we’re all talking same language doesn’t mean we have the same understanding.


Rapid talent developer

Promotions are having to take place at a very early age (either because this is the only way to sustain growth, and / or because this is the expectation of the new workforce).  This increases risk – leaders need to be able to get talent developed faster – by starting earlier / condensing development or mitigating the extra risks.



The Paradox of Leadership Potential

There are some opposing trends too.  Tommy suggested leaders in emerging markets need to have abilities in navigation – they need to be expert in giving direction in an ambiguous environment.  In the social world, leaders need to avoid giving direction, and enabling the workforce to make decisions for themselves.

So how do you handle leadership in social and emerging businesses?  There are no easy answers to this one, but it’s clearly possible as I think social media’s developing nicely in the UAE at least (see my interview with H2.0).

But I think the tension between the two trends also emphasises the complexity and ambiguity involved in developing leadership skills and in particular, the difficulty predicting how these skills are going to change…


John Mahoney-Phillips (Global Head of Human Capital at UBS, who Sandy Campbell introduced me to briefly quite a few years ago) referred to this difficulty in predicting leadership requirements as one reason why traditional ‘9 box’ approaches to performance and potential have significant problems, and also why many organisations aren’t getting huge returns on their investments in talent.

His / Kenexa’s new Leadership Potential Quotient tool focuses instead on the attributes of individuals now which may enable them to reach leadership roles in the future:






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Wednesday 20 January 2010

European HR Directors Business Summit: Thomas Stewart and Dave Ulrich on ‘Capabilities’


    I’ve just got back from the last couple of days out at the HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham, UK.  I’ve got a couple of posts coming up but wanted to start with the role of capabilities which were a key theme in both Thomas Stewart’s opening, and Dave Ulrich’ closing keynotes.

You know Ulrich, but might not know Stewart.  He used to be editor of Harvard Business Review and has written two very insight-packed books, ‘Intellectual Capital’ and ‘The Wealth of Knowledge’.  He now works as Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer for Booz & Company.

I’ve long been supportive of Stewart’s writing – and included one of his quotes in my HCM book (pictured above).

In Stewart’s words, capabilities are a ‘source of essential – as opposed to transient – advantage’ - they ‘shape the right to win’:


Ulrich emphasises that capabilities are outcomes – which provide a more appropriate focus than activities.  But I think both speakers would agree with each others’ descriptions.

Beyond these points, however, Stewart and Ulrich mean quite different things.

For Stewart, capabilities are tools, processes and people:


For Ulrich, capabilities are more like behavioural competencies, ie social (inter-personal) rather than technical, but organisational rather than individual.  They’re what you should see as the focus of an HR vision:


Out of these two definitions, I prefer Ulrich’s definition of capabilities.  Take a look at some examples:

  • Talent: intellectual capital, know-how, competencies, skills, commitment,workforce
  • Speed: agility, adaptation, flexibility, cycle-time, responsiveness
  • Share mindset: Culture change, transformation, firm identity, firm equity, firm brand, shared agenda….


These capabilities are really just about people (or at least the ‘organisation’ – rather than the ‘business’).  And I think that’s what they should be.  People really are the ‘source of essential – as opposed to transient – advantage’.   They are ‘our most important asset’.  They are the providers of our organisations’ capabilities.

Of course, the people focused capabilities need to be supported by the right processes and technology.  But in my view, we should select our capabilities based upon our people, and then worry about getting the right processes and technology, not mixing these all up beforehand.

My support for Ulrich’s form of capabilities is why I focus so much on human, and on social, capital – which I think are the two most important aspects of capabilities.

Where I disagree with Ulrich is his view that capabilities are “what line managers think will make the company successful”.

Behind this is Ulrich’s view that value is defined by the receiver (the business) more than the giver (HR).  I think this is a problem - yes, of course, HR needs to listen to, and satisfy, the rest of the business.  But…

Ulrich uses talking to his children as an analogy for this. If he says ‘clean your room’, they say ‘get out of my room’ and the conversations doesn’t go anywhere.  You can’t impose value on someone.

I don’t get the analogy.  You can’t impose room cleaning on your children (I can’t on mine anyway) but you can educate and incentivise them to want to do this for themselves (OK, that’s the theory anyway).

HR can educate business leaders and managers too.  It can propose certain capabilities to the rest of the business, it can explain how these capabilities would create value for the business, and it can identify the actions that can be taken to develop the capabilities which have been agreed.

HR can create value, as well as add it.  And it’s by creating value, proposing these opportunities for competitive advantage to the business, that HR becomes truly strategic.  Until this point, it’s still just a more up-market order taker.



Tomorrow I’ll provide a little more on Thomas Stewart’s definition of capabilities (which I still think is extremely useful for HR to understand) - taken mainly from a one-to-one meeting with Stewart following his session.

I’ll also be attending a seminar organisation by Kenexa, so I’ll probably be posting on that.


Then there will be more posts reporting on and following on from the HRD’s Business summit going into the weekend.  So keep tuned for more.





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Monday 18 January 2010

Want to work together?


   I’ve been thinking about Tammy Erickson’s suggestion (which we discussed on Talking HR) that two jobs will increasingly become the norm.

I had two jobs for a while myself – as early on in my current role as an independent consultant etc, I also worked part-time as a Director of Consulting for Buck / ACS.  And I think this worked OK most of the time.

So I’m wondering if it’s something I should look at again.

What I think I’d really like to do is to work – part-time - alongside a senior, strategic HR / people / organisation leader who really wants to make a difference to the contribution that his or her organisation’s people provide.

Why?  Partly because it would give me the opportunity to make more, or at least a longer-term, impact than most of my consulting projects allow.  And a bit more variety in the way that I work as well.  (So it’s just a change of role / focus I’m interested in, rather than how the work is done, ie I’m not too bothered by whether it would be performed as a consultant, interim or employee – but I emphasise it would be part-time (a 2 days per week or 1 to 2 weeks per month sort of thing, and ideally done on a flexible basis too).

Anyone interested?  The benefit?  Well, huge, I’d like to think, but it would difficult to be more specific until we discuss what the opportunities might be…  The cost?  Much lower than it would be for paying my consulting rates over several shorter periods.

Location: anywhere.  UK / Europe would make it easier to do, but somewhere else might be more fun – and we could still get together for discreet periods of a few days together, and for shorter periods over the web.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss.


Picture credit (Janus): Magnus Manske


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Sunday 17 January 2010

Stephen Hester’s diary



Sunday 17th Jan, 2010


Well, I thought I did rather well in my interview by the Treasury select committee.  And that little joke about my parents thinking I’m paid to much seemed to take the heat of a little (for now).

But I’ve been thinking further about what I described to the MPs as my "biggest single business problem", ie recruiting people who are concerned about the criticism they might encounter if they work for RBS.  And I’ve got to do something about this.

Problem is – how?  I’m going to get it in the neck if I go ahead and pay out £1.5 bn of bonuses next month.  But if I don’t, my 22,000 investment bankers are going to walk.

I’ve been deliberating over this and I’m starting to realise two things.


1.   We are paying out an obscene amount of money.  Particularly because RBS is owned by the public, and particularly because the profit we’ve been making is solely down to the bailout funding the government and therefore the public has pumped in.

It’s taken me a while to see this  - it’s difficult to be too concerned about the odd million quid bonus here and there when I’m on £9.7m myself.

And I’ve come to realise that this is part of the problem.  It’s down to a mistake that I made before I even joined the company – when I asked to be paid the going rate for a private sector job.

Well RBS is in the public sector now, and in a very special situation too, and we need to start behaving like we understand that.  And I need to take the lead.

So tomorrow morning, I’m going to announce that I’m going to start working for £1 per year.  It’s not going to be easy for me, but after all, with my years of working in investment banking, it’s a cut I can afford.  And it’s going to be important to do if we’re going to make the changes that we need.

I’m then going to ask the Board to do the same.  And somehow, we as a team, are going to start encouraging our investment bankers to take some type of cut as well.

I know I’m going to have to be careful on this, but there’s got to be a way to do it.  We’ve just got to be a bit braver than we have been so far.  Even if we only save 10% this year, then 20% the next, and even if it all goes to charity rather than remaining in the bank.  I ‘m not sure how we’re going to do it yet, but that chap Roden will be able to sort it out (even if he needs a few good consultants to help).


2.   This is even more important.  I’ve realised that we’ve got ourselves into this mess.  We’ve assumed for too long that the only way to motivate our people is to pay them big bucks.  OK, to some extent, that’s true.  After all, we’ve deliberately set out to recruit people who are only interested in money.  And by treating the rest of our people the same, we’ve progressively made them more money motivated too.

But it’s not sustainable.  We pay up more and more, then more and more, as other banks do the same.  It’s time to turn that around and reverse the trend.

So we’ve got to re-educate our people that there’s more to working for RBS than a big cheque.  We’ve got to show them that there’s something special about working here, something unique about this organisation, that gives them a good, non-financial reason to stay.

I wonder what it is?

I think we probably missed a trick when we set out our new group-wide strategy themes: 15% return on equity, top-tier competitive positioning, proportionate use of balance sheet risk, organic growth, and customer support.  I’ve got to admit there’s not much in here that makes us look different or is going to get anyone excited.

We need something new.  Something that’s going to unite our people, and get them passionate again.  Something that’s going to get them to stay with us, even if we’re not paying them so much.  Something that deals with my "biggest single business problem".  Something that helps the public understand that this is a “new RBS” and makes people proud of what we’re doing again.

So I’m going to need to do more work on this, but I think it’s got to be something about innovating banking.  Finding a new way of doing things, probably with different people doing them.

We still need to focus on profit – and helping the public recoup its huge investment in the bank.  But we need to achieve this in a different way.  A way that has a bit of social conscienceness, a bit of soul.

Perhaps we need to ask our people about this – get their ideas about what would make them proud.


Perhaps you’ve got some suggestions too?



  • Stephen Hester – CEO – Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

Saturday 16 January 2010

The Social Revolution - isn’t hierarchy to networks


The big shift 2   The second point (see my first point) I want to make about the social revolution is that:


2.   It’s possible to have self-organizing and -governing networks AND strong corporate hierarchies

Organisation Design

When I used to do more work in organisation design, I’d focus on the following elements of an organisation:

  • strategy
  • structure
  • processes
  • people
  • culture.


Each of these different elements need to support each other, but if I had the choice, the first aspect I would want to work on would be the business processes.  Why?  because it’s the process that describes the work that needs to be done.  Structure is simply the way this work is organised, through reporting relationships, once the business processes are clear.  And the rest follows out of this.

Of course, reflecting Josh’s second comment in my first post, there is then, typically, an ongoing battle against business leaders’ and managers’ tendency to forget about processes, and to think straight away in structural terms.

Also, reflecting on my previous experience now, if I was still doing much organisation design work, I’d also want to think about the opportunities to put people first – and to design business processes that enable people to do work well (an HCM perspective on organisation design), but that’s another story (or blog post…).

The point I want to make here is that what was missing from this list of elements organisation design was networks.  I just didn’t see them as that important.  Or perhaps that they couldn’t be identified or controlled.


Structure Design

But when I got onto structure design, I’d emphasise the choice organisations have to structure themselves differently – that structures don’t have to be hierarchical (functional / divisional), but can also be based upon one of these main (or other) options:


Ie organisations can also structure themselves by process, or by a combination of hierarchy and process (matrix) – or as a network (or as a combination of this and something else).  (Or as one of a variety of other forms eg modular, starburst, virtual etc.)

So I saw networks as a structural option but not a separate element of organisation design.  Although I suppose if I had worked with an organisation to develop a network structure, I would then have had to go on to design the network.  But this requirement never came up.

This was and is clearly wrong.  Networks need to be considered alongside people, processes, structures, and cultures as different and important aspects of organisations.  And it’s not just organisations that structure themselves as a network that need them – they’re an important element of design for all organisations, regardless of their structure.


The Supremacy of Hierarchy 

The choice of structure depends on what’s most important for the organisation.  So, for example, if they really want to emphasise the process aspect, then they can structure themselves along process lines.  The fact is of course, that very few organisations do this.  And so I would find that most structural designs I worked on ended up being a straight forward, or some adaptation of a, hierarchy.

I expect I’d still find the same today – that even with the addition of networks to the overall organisation design mix, it’s not going to mean that many organisations want to move away from hierarchical structures.  They’re still going to want the functional clarity that hierarchy provides.  And there’s no reason why they can’t manage, or at least influence their networks, and have hierarchical structures too.

Networks aren’t an alternative to hierarchies (meaning structures).  They’re two different aspects of organisation design.  We don’t want to move from hierarchies or other structures to networks – we need both.


The Network Matrix

I suppose what many people mean when they say that networks need to replace hierarchies is that more network structures should be used.

And to an extent I agree with this.  Structure is about how work gets managed.  So if you want your networks for to be self-organising and –governing (as McAfee suggests), you’ve got to include networks as a basis for your structure.

But even then, I’d suggest most most organisations are going to want to add the network as an additional element of their structure, ie as part of a matrix, rather than to introduce a network structure as a replacement to their existing hierarchy.

This would be mean splitting the management of the organisation along network and eg functional lines.  One dimension would provide the strong corporate hierarchy and the other dimension allow a degree of self-organising and –governing within the network.


Networks and the Social Revolution

I’d also add that that changing structure is never enough to change the way an organisation works.  And to change the way that people work with each other, and that work gets done, we need to redesign the networks, or at least the way the networks work, more than we need to redesign the structures of our organisations.

Plus remember that organisation design is only one of several different enablers to bring about the social revolution.  So this revolution really has very little to do with moving from hierarchical to network structures.


I’m going to come back and post more about this later in the week.


Picture credit: Leon Benjamin (amended!)


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Friday 15 January 2010

I need your spigs


  You may have read my earlier posts on HR’s role (or non-role) in Enterprise 2.0 and the Social Business (eg these posts on Next Generation HR, and my review of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 book).

The reason for writing these posts is that I do believe HR has a useful role to play – not just in terms of organisation design (including social networks and organisational hierarchies), but in selecting the right people, developing them, creating the right environment and culture and so on.  And probably even more important than this, in facilitating the right sort of strategic conversation that focuses on social outcomes / social capital (collaboration, innovation etc) rather than just social activities – which is where I think IT is getting it wrong.

I’ve proposed to take this argument to a number of HR events this year, and to some IT-led ones as well, like the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.  I think some HR (or at least human / social capital) input at these events would inject some much needed insight:

“Over the last couple of month’s there have been a couple of conferences on Enterprise 2.0, in US and Europe.  And because IT people tend to blog and tweet more extensively than HR people do, it’s been quite easy to follow these conferences from afar.  And the sense I’ve got of these conferences is of a couple of hundred IT people talking together about culture change!  And there’s been little to no HR contribution to this.  I’ve submitted a proposal to present at the next E2.0 conference in Boston, but as it’ll be mainly IT people voting on this, I’m not that hopeful of being chosen.”

From my post on Next Generation HR


The conference’s call for papers received 466 submissions which are now undergoing a community vote:

“We encourage all who submitted, all who plan on attending Enterprise 2.0 Conference Boston, and anyone interested in Enterprise 2.0, to review the submissions, and vote for their favorites. Submissions are searchable by category, speaker or keyword, and votes received by each session will be viewable by all participants. Sessions advance to the final ‘Selected’ stage based on community votes and final approval by our Advisory Board, and will be announced upon completion of the vote.”


My proposal is languishing about half-way down the voting league, and some proposals are being heavily gamed ie are being voted for by friends and colleagues who I guess have little interest in E2.0 or attending the conference etc.  So I guess if I’m going to have any chance of presenting there, I’m going to need you to help me play the game. I need your vote (which for some reason is called a spig).

If you’d like to see HR having an input to the E2.0 agenda, and have me show IT how HR can help Connect the Dots in the social business, please visit the ‘spigit’ site, register, and vote for my proposal (please!).

We’ve got till next Wednesday January 20th.




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Thursday 14 January 2010

Social networks and organisations hierarchies


flat organisation hierarchy   I’ve been talking to Josh Letourneau, sourcer and executive search consultant come social network analyst following his recent and insightful post ‘Social Capital… is about to change the world‘ in Ryan Leary’s equally interesting 2010 Recruiting Carnival series).

I agree with just about all of what Josh writes.  I particularly like, and agree with, this:

“Ask yourself why there is so much focus on improving ‘within-employee’ factors (skills, competencies, etc.) when research is showing us that competitive advantage is more driven through the ‘patterns of connections’ (often called ‘networks’ or ‘between-employee factors’) than the mean level of organizational talent alone.  According to Valdis Krebs, one of the foremost thinkers in the way of Social Network Analysis on the planet, “Teams are not made of talent alone.  It is how the talents of individual players intersect and interact that distinguishes a good team from a collection of good players.”


However, another of Josh’ comments has had me thinking:

“Take a moment and ask yourself why organizations spend so much time focused on ‘maintaining the formal structure [command-and-control] Org Chart’ when they so rarely reflect how the day-to-day work gets done?  Why is there such little focus on self-forming (in many cases) social networks when it is apparent ‘how much information and knowledge flows through them and how little through official hierarchical and matrix structures’?” 


It’s not that I disagree with Josh – I think he’s made a very thoughtful and considered statement, that I also consider to be true.

But as social networking has been growing into a more popular theme, I’ve also seen a lot of people going a lot further than this – basically suggesting that hierarchies should be binned and that networks should be monitored / managed / influenced in their place.

Andrew McAfee has been posting on this too:

“Do we agree that a social revolution is taking place in business today? That corporate hierarchies are being replaced by self-organizing and -governing networks?

If they are, I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen plenty of examples where formal org structures have been supplemented by informal ones (whether tech-enabled or not). It’s also quite common for formal, pre-defined business processes to be supplemented by ad hoc and emergent ones, especially when the formal ones aren’t working perfectly.

Every time this happens, it’s social. But it’s not revolutionary. It’s not even new.

What would be new is a trend of companies throwing out altogether their org charts, management hierarchies, reporting relationships, job titles and descriptions, formal roles and responsibilities, review and promotion processes, and other aspects of classic, old-as-the-hills organizational structure and replacing them with an entirely new social contract. I’ve not seen or heard of a single example of this taking place.”


There are two points I want to make on this:

1.   The social revolution doesn’t necessarily require flat, democratic, collaborative, self-organisation!  (albeit that I think these all sound nice to have).  It requires, above all, recognition that ‘social’ is important

To me, the social revolution that I believe is starting to impact organisations is about recognising the importance of – and then investing in – the relationships between people, as well as the people themselves.

It’s a revolution in the same way that HCM is a revolution (the people revolution) - they both put intangible organisational capital at the centre of business strategy, and align people and organisation management processes behind this capital, rather than to just achieve short-term business ends.

The people revolution puts human capital at the centre of business strategy, the social revolution extends this to social capital too.

The social revolution is potentially an even bigger revolution than the people one for two reasons:

  • The point of performance in most organisations is the team, not the individual – so social capital has even greater value than the human sort
  • Most organisations manage their people very poorly.  They use up human capital rather than accumulating it.  But at least the management of people is something that they try to do.  Managing or even just influencing relationships is something that most organisations have not even thought about as yet.


So social capital’s more important, and it’s in a much worse state.

Also see my recent post on moving from human to social capital.


But changing things to start accumulating social capital doesn’t require throwing the baby (org charts, management hierarchies, reporting relationships and the other things McAfee mentions) out with the bathwater.  My next point explains why (in my next post).



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Tuesday 12 January 2010

2010: The year things change? (Talking HR #023)


Yesterday’s Talking HR show (#023) looked back at 2009 and forward to 2010.  We were joined for part of the show by Alan Whitford of RC Euro:

Listen to the show here (or subscribe on itunes):



I think the major theme of the show (which I hadn’t intended / designed) was that we (or at least I) do think things are going to start to change.  This may be an optimistic hope (to use Alan’s words), but as Tammy Erickson says, ‘changes won’t settle in this year, but they’re coming’.

Perhaps what we need most is some confidence to push the boat out a bit further than we have.  To do, as Chris Ferdinandi says, some amazing things.

Perhaps banks will even change their bonus policies next year!?


cows come home


Resources for the show:


Picture credit: Chris L. Demarest 


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