Archive for March, 2013

Quick musical reference – The Who’s iconic rock-opera album Quadrophenia features a track “The Punk and the Godfather”.  Bearing in mind this was recorded in 1974, it pre-dates the Punk Rock movement by a couple of years so in itself, was ahead of its time. 


The link to this title is nothing to do with the actual song, it’s more about a snappy (ish) title that fits my #PunkHR thing, and I wanted to reference Professor Gary Hamel as the Godfather of new management – or Management 2.0 as he calls it.

The story behind this blog begins on November 6th 2012, and fireworks had been let off the night before as is the tradition.  The real firecracker came in the shape of the keynote address by Gary Hamel to CIPD 2012 Annual Conference and Exhibition. 


Professor Hamel ( – voted by Wall Street Journal as the number 1 management thinker, is a  London Business School Professor and creator and driving force behind the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX)

He’s a man of thoughts and energy.  It was the second time – for me – that I’ve seen Gary Hamel live.  2007 was the first time I saw him.  He rocked.  He called for us to challenge the management orthodoxies in his book the Future of Management.  He seemed not only intellectually brilliant, presentationally stimulating and passionately driven, he seemed like a nice guy.  And nice guys are important to the world.

So I’m going to christen him the Godfather.  Like Paul Weller became the Modfather, Gary Hamel is, and should even more so be, iconically associated with leading edge thoughts on management.  He can be challenged and @FlipchartRIck’s great blog did that.  But you know what?  Whether he’s on the money or just another thought leader with some stories to tell, he’s good – and I mean really good – for HR in the UK and for the CIPD.  The Godfather of HACKEDHR.   Yes the practice and profession of Human Resource Management. I think our time has come as a profession; this is when we show and deliver the difference we’ve long said we could and where we owe Gary Hamel some loyalty; belief and deliverance.

I can’t leave it at that though, and this is not a blog which is a replay of Gary’s session which in my mind lit the touchpaper for this firecracker – nay rocket – of HR brilliance I believe is our rite of passage now more than ever before. 

Instead, I’m going to attempt to show how Gary is actually the world’s leading PunkHR practitioner.  I will set out my thoughts on his renegade quotient (Gary’s words on his twitter account) is just what is needed to hack management. A hacked management model will create something new which will result in the betterment of all people within the myriad of workplaces and organisations.

That’s my view on our mission in life in HR; we study the dynamics of people and organisational coagulation that is work; we build the frames that work needs in and around it to get the best possible outcome from their “human resources” and we maintain our curiosity; experimenting with fresh concepts and deliver through that insight and belief to future proof people and work.

So, I have the audacity to label an eminent Professor as the leading PunkHR practitioner and the Godfather of HACKEDHR.  Well for a start it all comes from a place of the utmost respect.  I have an immeasurable admiration for Gary Hamel’s work.  And mostly, I’m trying to create a movement. 

A real movement and a movement in our minds. 

Admittedly this is off the back of someone else’s brilliance, but I want to start getting behind what Gary is now asking us all to think about in the hope others do too and we DO make a difference on something so critical to our world; our communities and ourselves.  This is higher calling stuff in my mind and I won’t apologise for being a believer and sharing my belief.  Do I want to be challenged on this?  If it helps me and all of us learn on this, give it your best shot, so yes please.  I just want to make this happen.  And by this, I will use Gary’s Management 2.0

Why not just participate in the MiX forum you may ask?  I might well do that but I feel more comfortable with a gentle step into this through my own blog space.  This is about building and is much about my being on my own learning journey here as being brave, wildly optimistic or just trendy.

So here goes – and I’ll use Gary’s “hack” reference so maybe it will port across into the MiX website.

Hack 1 – get our HR programmers writing the right lines of code for ourselves.  We, in HR, I believe have to be a little indulgent with ourselves first.  To take a long, cold, hard look at ourselves as a professional function and how we think; act; feel.  How are WE structured?  How do we set out our HR function within organisations?  How do we liberate, empower support our HR professionals.  How do we grow their abilities, confidence and impact?  We’ve had stabs at this in the past.  CIPD’s own Next Gen provided a burst of inspiration for me.  Even Dave Urlich’s work back in the day gave a new hope.  But we defaulted to old lines of code and our programmes became difficult to manage.  Our behaviours  upgrade failed to deliver so we uninstalled some thinking.  We ignored the need to back up just in case, but clear down our old files so we became cluttered.  We failed to defragment our hard drives and we became frustratingly slow at times and bad segments weren’t eradicated.  HR Business Partners?  Personnel Advisers with a new file name.  A Diversity firewall installed?  We failed to eradicate some Trojan horse viruses to this thinking. A multi-tasking operating system?  We had to reboot our desktops too often and became slow to load and start.

So we need to take on what Gary Hamel is setting out with a difference hierarchical model for the way HR sets itself up.  Utilising specialists – sure.  But don’t put ourselves in the boxes structure and then expect the business to go all “Morning Star” (and by this you might have to check on the HBR article – First Lets Fire All The Managers) on us voluntarily.  So by going all “Morning Star” it’s having a managerless environment with hyper-accountability by staff in agreement-based interactivity with each other and suppliers and lots of self-regulated performance and reward – in a pistachio shell of course.

Anyway, “the business” is unlikely to go all “Morning Star” on us, and we don’t give any signals that we would want them to.  We in HR don’t have a reputational footprint for being radicals in this area so if we don’t why would the business even think it could, should or would?

 I hope we are all in agreement as to why we need to change and capitalise on this now.  So we start with ourselves – but where do we start and how do make it happen?

OK as I’m writing this, it feels like I should be setting out a blueprint or at least a roadmap.  Which, if you read on, this might end up becoming or that’s for another time.

I don’t even think HR needs to go all “Morning Star” either.  It can though, and should provide for a more collegiate; experimentational; flexible; expertise-leveraging; decisive; cost-saving; learning-driven; insightful function which builds on its existing core of professional standards coupled with a more future-focused; inventive and energised approach about the thing we call HR.


I’ll get my drafting clogs on and come up with future hacks to make this a theme of future blogs but clearly, whilst a bit of a Gary Hamel love-in, I seriously think he was talking to us and not the rest of the business world on the day in November.  4 months on, his words are still ringing loud and clear in my mind when perhaps the rest of the HR world has gotten over their brief moment of rebellious thinking and conformed to the usual business as usual.  Let’s Hack HR before we can get into Hacking Management and then we can be responsible for rebooting a new, prosperous, humane way forward for work.  I’m off to find out if anyone has defined the competencies that would describe hacking as I’m sure some people will want to know what the role profile looks like before they can join the movement…FFS..!

POST SCRIPT: this was a half-blog I have sat on waiting for the right time so with this announcement here how could I not let this blog go…future hack comments?  I won’t blog them or maybe I will – but I am going to be probably the most keen participant in what Peter Cheese and Gary Hamel have set out.  A new dawn for HR?  Only if we seize this opportunity.



Building on my totaalvoetbal analogy of the last blog (where anyone could play in any position in the Netherlands 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cup campaigns) there is something very interesting going on in the world of work and our relationships with people in the workplace and outside of it.


My take on it is we are associating MORE with the people in our professional sphere who we don’t work with us and LESS with those people who share the same employer as us.  Why..?  Kind of obvious isn’t it really –   we are choosing who to associate with.  Why then in more detail is this apparently a shift in the dynamic of our social structure 

Well, when you work in a company above 10 or 15 people, you are kind of stuck with people – people you had no part to play in the recruitment process – who become your colleagues.  And there is some acceptance that these people will also become your friends.

I just don’t think it works like this anymore.  When compared to the fantastic connections you make with people you come across in a less forced sense, those work colleagues that become your compacted model, become all about transactional relationships.  Where often there is nothing in common, very little shared value or working approach and often playing out as destructive, toxic relationships.  And we wonder why stress is on the increase?  This could be – invariably is – one of the key reasons.  We aren’t around people we care about enough at work.  We are forced – compacted – into setups and teams where we probably don’t belong and maybe never will.  We waste a stack of effort in daft outward bounds centres building bridges with people we’d just rather not spend a lot of time with.  Team building?  My arse.


It isn’t always this way though, and our friend Professor Gary Hamel has often found places where good, choice-based relationships are found in a random collection of people such as WholeFoods and Gore-Tex.  Check his stories here at the Management innovation Exchange – MiX where Gary is asking us to hack management.


Here is another way to look at this. Lonely in a crowd. Stark that. Cold. Doesn’t sound like your workplace?  Well, see how many people keep in touch with you when you leave.  In most cases, whether you are a popular gregarious type or a little reserved, wallflower VERY few people will keep in touch let alone meet up socially.  Effort made by you is part of it sure.  But then when meetings get cancelled, things drift for months you realise: we were merely transacting. Maybe it ought to be let go of.

Compare that to the other connections you have outside of the place/company you work; from those who have common interests, align their passion in a way you admire, who genuinely inspire you. The polar opposite of transacting – a more transcendent relationship.  This relationship may still fall foul of things like cancelled hook-ups, the effort being a little 1-way etc; yet it endures.

Because at the heart of that relationship is you being a companion of someone and not being compacted with people.

When you care about people in a companion way, you do your best for them – you transform them/things.

When you are compacted with others in a corporate way, well you, erm, transact with each other. There is professional pride of course, there is some caring of course – so I am generalising. But largely, why would you get on famously with all those random people you are thrust together with at work. Or to put it another way that you are compacted with.

Because we are compacted together, we are often forced to get on. I am an incredibly socially-wired individual but I can tell you, some people I have been compacted with in corporate life, It wasn’t just that I didn’t get them, or we didn’t chime: I found them offensive;    dangerous and downright dislike-able. When either I left them behind, or they left (some got restructured out rather than performance managed out – hmmm.) it was such a relief. Several people became close friends and still are. In fact many people from past corporate adventures are still in my circle and I theirs.  Loads more aren’t, and that’s said with a huge sigh of relief.  When I was compacted with them, it involved a load of tolerance, patience and give to get on with them.  “Why not chirp up and challenge them”? you might well say.  Simply put, my stance was, it was not worth my energy.  I had too many other things to devote my energy and attention towards than people who I would only ever be transacting within compacted relationships

People who were part of my team in the past – surely the close proximity struck up tightness in relationships? Nope.  Those I am in contact with and have stronger bonds with were in often from the same organisation but NOT in my team. We found each other and had that shared passion; were still different (age, values, approaches, gender, ethnicity etc) but we CHOSE to be companions. We were only compacted by being in the same organisation but we chose to be companions.

Now before anthropologists and behavioural psychologists get all over my theories and experiences, I KNOW we are social animals and existed (still exist) in tribes.  We were born into them and made the best of it.

Lately I am though, thinking very much more deeply about why a random collection of workplace individuals should get on.  I just don’t think things can be forced that way. We don’t have to abandon units based on specialisms and corporate functions but do we have to sit with them?  Go on forced team builds with them?

I think not.  I think we agree what our professional endeavours are all about and stick to those.

We should we be able to sit with whomever we find the most inspiration from, in whatever part of the business they work in.  We should be able to work remotely when we need to.  We would OF COURSE join in with team meetings and tactical checkpoints.

It’s not about just sitting with your “bezzy mates” like in school.  It’s those who create FLOW not FRICTION.  Those who can support you emotionally and it means something to you; and those who have your back.

It’s not about avoiding supervision from your boss; it’s about being somewhere – and with people – that you are choosing to be with for all the right reasons.  You can and will have a decent amount of check-ins with your boss but this about, as I said earlier, companions and about friction.

Usual Punk movement moment now: Punks had companions and weren’t compacted together. In fact, so non-compacted were they, they would hang with Skinheads, Rastas, Mods, Rockers, Goths and Soulboys.  There was such an anti-conformist view that they didn’t even conform to something they might be forgiven for – hanging around with your likewise. 

So I think it’s time to forget artificial team constructs – the compacting set up for offices and teams.  The new shape is to not have to spend time sat around people who create friction.  To choose to be with people who are your support mechanism; who are your engine room and your blue-sky enablers.  Your companions. The results?  Happier, more productive, likely more innovative people at work.  Of course, if you compact people in and they still perform OK you’ll never really know how much the friction that’s being created is causing a drag on your streamline. 

Leaning the hell out of work has gotten us to a point where we have no more processes to eliminate; no more fat to trim and so our only step would be functional anorexia or automation through technological solutions.  Where that’s not there yet, giving people the space to be where they want to be and with whomever, is the most humane thing we can do to get the best out of people.

@smartco Anne Marie McEwan’s new book Smart Work (here) describes how corrupt the workplace has become in de-humanising who we are and what we are about. 

That’s what compacting does for you. Presses things in so tightly that it might have been made out of 100 different materials but it looks and acts a little like a breeze block.  Not very cuddly; grey and rough.  Sound familiar corporate world?


Marissa Meyer’s edict apart, there is hope. Hope that workplace design will get more sophisticated and Punk itself up.  Invigorating our grey-carpeted highways towards blandtopian wood and spotlights will be a thing of the past and people will come to work for the joy of the socialising; the buzz of the energy and in the knowledge they helped shape their own working environment about who and in what way they “logged on”. 

Pogo on people – in your own space with whoever you want there with you – with a splash of tartan and bondage.



07711 169677

Welcome to my first ever guest blogger.  Cyrus Cooper. An original punk – 


though he doesn’t look anywhere near old enough – and a thorough learning professional. 

Cyrus and I go back 10 years.  We have always had a shared passion for what this profession of ours is all about.  He’s a great facilitator; he coaches with a gentleness that endears him to all his clients yet moves them on and he is one of the most internal externals I’ve ever worked with.  He joined in the bold debate and he has this to say about the internal / external thing.  I hope you enjoy the thoughts of a good man and trusted partner-in-crime.  Cyrus is Managing Director at my favourite Learning Consultancy Maximum Per

Image and he 

tweets @CyrusCooper1.  Cyrus is also too modest to tell you he wrote a book on facilitation 

called Brilliant Workshops.  Available at all good outlets.



Bold – Internal -v- External view

The ‘Bold’ debate had at the L&D Connect Unconference had us all going. The question was ‘Are we bold enough as L&D representatives?’ Firstly, how do we define ‘bold’? This will also depend on whether we work as an internal or external provider of L&D services as the definition will shift. It is in my humble opinion that we should all challenge positively as a starting point. From that initial conversation with the ‘client’ we need to demonstrate our worth by not just agreeing to everything the ‘expert’ has told us to do. Being bold is to stand up for the profession and play detective to dig deep and find out exactly the reason for any intervention and the potential solution(s).


Being bold is being the critical friend.

Being bold is being respected first, rather than liked. Challenge as standard!

Externally, that is why we are hired. Sometimes we can say things that an internal person cannot, as they need to maintain daily relationships.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When I was an internal L&D consultant, I would get frustrated as we were brought in at the end ‘to make it happen’.

We rarely had a say in the design and the people requesting it were more senior than me.

If I was bold back then, I would have built more strategic relationships. I would set expectations than when me, or someone in my team, is asked to assist, we will be probing for understanding and outcomes and want vs need. I would have said you call us in at the outset. We are not an add-on but a valuable resource they would be better with us as partners. We are on your side! I will set expectations that nothing has been ‘agreed’ and I will be asking many questions to ensure the right solution is found. Some questions will really make you hold the mirror up to yourself and think why you are proposing this. It will be in the L&D strategy. The L&D team will be skilled up in the art of crucial conversations.


But the art of being bold is perhaps to leave a person with more options after you’ve been bold and challenged them to think and act differently and your credibility will rise.

Thanks Cyrus – so does an external partner have more licence to be bold?  Do internal practitioners have to dial down their boldness?  What do you think?