Friday, 11 November 2011

The human and the machine


   The best session at CIPD11 by far was on efficiency and performance and was delivered by John Greatrex, Group HR Director at Unipart, and Franceso Mereu, Director, HR, Corporate Planning and CSR at Toyota Motor Europe.

For Greatrex there is a growing perspective that there needs to be more of the Human in HR.  He described the need not just to be lean and efficient, but for this to be combined with employee engagement too.  These are both central to the Unipart Way which includes beliefs about there always being a better way, that no problem is a problem etc, but also that engagement drives performance.

Unipart have some great approaches to support this, eg the communication cell providing a framework for daily 10-15 minute briefings ensuring that structured communication takes place every day.

I also liked the way their engagement survey is dealt with in work teams with the results only being passed up to group level if the team can’t deal with them, or the survey process needs to be improved.

More generally, they attempt to measure the process, not the score.  Eg they don’t compare everyone’s engagement score but look for and spread best practice.  The objective is to identify problems – they don’t want people to disguise them.

For Greatrex, all this is about combining lean tools with an engagement philosophy.

In a similar manner, the Toyota Way is based on continuous improvement and a respect for people with a big focus on teamwork.  This needs mutual trust and respect:

  • Setting goals together
  • Involving in decision making
  • On-going sharing of information.


For example, business planning is based on the concept of ‘nemawashi’ or consensus building.  Toyota seek to prepare the ground gradually, building opportunities to work as a team through 20 group discussions with 50 managers walking about – looking at documents, asking clarification questions.  If someone doesn’t feel involved properly they can register their desire to be consulted.  It’s then the relevant department’s responsibility to do this.  This encourages the mindset for people to be involved from the beginning.

Also middle and senior managers’ ratings are aligned across the organisation, ensuring that rewards are based on company-wide vs just departmental interactions and ending a clear message that managers are part of a wider team.


I loved the way that people were so central to business strategy in these two examples.

The point came up again later in a session on leadership for the future with John Burgoyne who suggested that leadership shouldn’t be either human relations or management science but a mixture of both - the human and the machine.

And it’s what Marcus Buckingham was talking about in his point about organisational leaders’ challenge being to take what is unique in their people, and themselves, and make it useful (he’s been reading Strategic HCM!).


I also thought it was interesting to see this today as well: How social media can make your organization stronger:

“For centuries, we have been intentionally creating organizations that are machinelike — rigid departmental silos, detailed policies and procedures, strict roles and responsibilities, detailed strategic plans, etc.

Becoming a human organization is hard mostly because you’re going against centuries of tradition that have a track record of success. We accomplished amazing things in our mechanically inclined organizations, yet becoming more human requires that we change the way we have been doing things.”



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