Archive for October, 2014

Heroes on the Half-Shell

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

You never know when a real hero will pop up.  Sometimes it is when the circumstances create a hero others when people do things that are heroic and they just don’t realise it.


My 21 year old nephew Shaun is a model young man.  Trendy, friendly, and caring.  He’s doing well for himself carving out a decent career in logistics.  He also made his girlfriend Dominika go to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. He recalled fondly the previous incarnations of the Turtles so he had a reason to see the redux version.  I’ll leave that there APART FROM the role of a hero.


In the nicest possible way I spent 2+ hours over a couple of pints with a hero.  Andy Swann.  Not only an intelligent and nice individual but a hero.  He wouldn’t necessarily count himself as a hero and those who know him online or offline will know why.  He’s just doing his thing.

His heroism isn’t necessarily in his “I Am The Work Project” proposition that he’s living through.  It’s heroic in spirit and attitude.  Now he’s not the only one.

I am fortunate that I get to associate with, call friends and work with people who are heroic like Andy.  People who don’t just turn up; tune out and sod off from their jobs.  People who earn a crust AND try and create betterness for random others or their profession or their team.

Now many might point to what they do as doing better for others but I suspect some are doing it simply as a part of the job role.  Not REALLY thinking beyond their duty.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s good. Not heroic though.

Real heroism in this context comes in the way you shamelessly give to others.  In the way you put your interests so far down the line they can’t be seen in favour of people you don’t even know.  In the way you stick your neck out.  Call things crass, crap and clumsy.  Rebel against the constraints of mediocrity.  Rage against the machine. 

Support and believe in people is easy to say but not easy to fake.  We can tell whether you’re REALLY an agent for change with selfless determination to make things better OR whether you are a bit starstruck by your position in the angry shouty type hall of fame.  No one cares if you can challenge Dirk Ulbacher’s model of HR transformative process of designed micro behaviouralism.

What we care about is do you care about people enough to put yourself in a position of giving and by virtue be the true inspiration many need to do the same.

When we give it sticks. 

When you gloat admiringly at your oh-so-intellectual prose we’ve already dialled down any reaction you wanted from us. 

Because you’re not giving us anything.  Instead you’re taking away.  Subtracting by calling out gaps, flaws and inadequacies.

Heros give.  Share.  Create.  Build. Boost.  Support.  Endorse. Energise.

Heroes selflessly do; so that others may appreciate.

We need more heroes.  And that doesn’t mean you have to be in some tense strife-ridden situation.

Small heroic gestures:
Like a message of support when someone looks a bit lacking. 
Like understanding why a meeting should be cancelled because you’re a bit frazzled.
Being calm and understanding as to why there’s a reason you haven’t done the annual review yet because you’re both so exhausted.

Real heroes create other heroes.

My 2 hours with Andy Swann proved how much of a hero he is.  We talked about many other heroes we know and are on the way to knowing.  Many of the heroes were unsung.  Not self-publicised and quite the contrary a bit too modest – others would surely have been inspired by some of the heroic tales we shared about folks.

OK it’s not heroics in the nature of war conflict; or hostage negotiation or field medicine.

That’s superheroism

I called it when up in Manchester – (The Jam song) Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero? 

We, in HR, are helping look after that 5 O’Clock Hero and we are also 5 O’Clock Heroes ourselves.

I’ll call it therefore again here.  Please; let’s have more workplace heroes.

Please find Andy Swann’s project work all over the social web. 

It’s fascinating and he’s doing it for all of us.  Not just him.  What a hero.


Off the beaten track

Posted: October 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

A nice piece of reflection on the strength of an event with enthusiasts entertaining the notion there is a better way…for a better HR proposition. Great work Richard.

Up the Down Escalator

It feels to me like HR is at something of a crossroads. I have written about this before. We have a choice. We can take the tried and trusted route, let’s call it the main road, that is direct, functional and gets us to where we think we want to go. Or we can take the scenic route, let’s call it the back road, which will be full of twists and turns, may be a bit rocky in places but is worth it for the unexpected views and discovery of new places you didn’t know existed.

This week’s Unfurling HR Unconference in Auckland felt very much like a back road experience. It was almost off road.

Unfurled3The unconference format was a first for me and just about everyone else in the room. Unfurling HR was the idea of #NZLead’s Amanda Sterling and she put herself out there to get…

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We’re fortunate.


That we didn’t have to work in a Satanic Mill.


We’re fortunate

That we haven’t lost a colleague because our workplace is dangerous.


We’re fortunate

That people actually want me around.


We’re fortunate

That coming to this Ikeafied blandtopia doesn’t send more of us home with emptiness and psychological pain.

We have a workplace to unfuck.  And I have NO RIGHT to share with you answers that are based on academic research or professional rigour.  I say so because for years, I was the recipient of workplace planning – or not – or overplanning.  So I think we need to Punk up our workplaces.  And I don’t mean in a Gaultier kind of Punk (or even Westwood these days).

I mean proper true street punk it up.  Unless you’re a massive consulting firm then basically you’re stuck with leather, marble, dark wood and a place that sucks out your very soul on the swipe of your pass.

Some people may say Punk is a gimmick.  Well it might be from our lofty University Challenge perch, but Punk means real to those truly in the know.  No plastic here.  Just improv; rebellion and feeling something.

The Punk Workplace is about you saying “fuck the establishment” and creating your space where you belong and believe in.

It might be reclaimed furniture; bespoke something; or no place at all.  What it needs is a workplace with feelings to start with.

Thereafter it’s about allowing you to put around what you need.  A zone; variety; colours.  Not some “space planner” to tell you how much square feet you need.  Or your boss to say “no you WILL have an office”.

Bring your own device?  Bring your own fucking self to start with.  Bring your own DESIGNS more like.

Don’t say “here’s your desk”…allow people to find their place or places.  All property is theft.  Anarchy rules so don’t tell me to be an anarchist.  I want to be me at work.  And that includes how I work, where I sit, and what I need around me.

Punk is the ultimate in individual expression categorised by that lack of conformity.

If we were all sat on bean bags in shorts and with our dogs at our sides, that’s about as Punk as a local Trendy Parents meeting.

We need more conformity at work like we do a thinner iPad.  We need more battery in our devices and we need humanity in our workplaces.  Not boxes to transact in.  Places to be human and give your best endeavours within.

A few quick logistics.

When you start a new job you get asked “how and where would you like to work?”

Options include

1. Accept the grey/beige stuff we already have.  Not Punk even if you try and say it’s anti establishment / non trendy.  Punks never wore crimplene.

2. Use the nice all white stuff we already have – which is better than beige.  Not Punk more Kylie video

3. Pick your own stuff – we’re doing a makeover – getting there but a bit Green Day-esque.

4. Bring your own stuff – we’d happily ship it in – more like it.  Very Joe Strummer

5. Work where you like – cos we trust you – much more Anti-Nowhere League

6. Work – what’s that? – very CRASS.

There’s no hallmarks to a punk workplace except that when you see one, you know it is one.

With a nod to the person who does the facilities, a wink at the HR team and a smile at the CEO whilst she was writing on the graffiti wall in the stairway.


Posted: October 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Rolling out or Rolled Up?

-Unfurled Frond-Tree Fern leaf unfurling- by Rhonda F. Taylor - Redbubble.clipular

I like the thought of unfurling HR – I think it has a ring to it that says “throw a bit of caution to the wind”.

There’s enough people at work to worry about the rules.

An unfurled HR feels to me like a mixture of Gaudi; Picasso; Gaultier and Kraftwerk. A mixture of artforms with little in common except they’re artforms. Starting with someone’s own passion; expression and endeavours eventually unfurled for all to see; appreciate and be inspired by.

A little like an unconference is a bit like an alternative art form.

So what’s an unfurled HR thing then?

How about an abandonment of tired thinking and practices?

How about a dive into the exciting world of Agile and Smarter Working?

How about experiments? How about crowd sourced policies? How about giving people a fricking innovation bonus…

Unfurled HR means not careless and reckless tinkering but humanist, adaptive experimentation and individualisation?

Unfurled means HR does something unexpectedly brilliant like the news that Zuckerberg has donated $25m to help fight ebola.

Unfurled HR is HR doing good.

Not HR doing HR.

If you’re in HR for doing HR then you need unfurling.

An unfurled HR that should be progressive, adaptive, ingenious, caring, compassionate, pioneering, adventurous, generous, curious, professional, courteous, genuine, challenging, brave, artistic, resilient, determined, articulate, warm.

A furled HR is bureaucratic, risk-averse, predictable, dull, motionless, harsh, tight, stuck, flat, monotone, unsympathetic, cold.

When I come across students, new practitioners and those who have been through a few hours like me but they’re full of rejuvenated energy and spirit I literally sing. And unfurl the song of passionate professionals pushing their psalms.

It’s not the cult of HR nor is it the curse of HR. It’s the unfurling of HR – a new breed of practice that has no new trendy tag; has no discernable distance from the past but is just better. More Human than Resources but well resourced to keep organisations human.

Unfurling HR isn’t just right now because I’ve realised it or you have. It’s planetary alignment. It’s like the combination of factors and societal and economic shifts that say “HR – your time is now”. So we must unfurl.

Not the traditional, tired HR Version 1 we have seen. No, this vibrant and unexpected Supercharged HR I am now talking about. One who has put some distance between itself and the 2-stroke version.

Where the digitisation and socialisation of work is being LED by HR not by IT or Business Development

Where the decline of the job proposition is brought about by HR to lead to meaningful and varied work for people who have assembled their own career interests and working circles.

Where the demise of the manager model we all know and despise is rebooted in favour of the manager as a coach; a flat army led by those who want to inspire and who rotate according to energy; belief and context.

Where the demand for craft means we all become more artisan and leave the drones and the robots to the lower end roles we have loathed for so long.

Where the disruption as usual is the usual. The norm. That delivers because of its adaptiveness and not in spite of fixation on fixed state.

An unfurled HR is a positive, performing, people profession. Oozing with confident humility and believable ebullience.

It exists. In that room in Auckland right now. And in my lounge in my pyjamas. A keynote in clothes minor.

Just like these words assembled not 30 minutes ago, an unconference is a chance to unfurl those thoughts; unleash those ideas; and unravel those conundrums you have.

Unconference; Unravel; Unfurl.

Of course the optimist in me – my overriding genetic order – is that they are Game Changers. Yet I can’t help think that it’s also a lot of Game Over.

Game Over as in the end of an era. Of bureacuratic, policy-led dysfunctional HR because the future is a game that is being changed already. By incumbents and the intake.

What makes me think that? We’re surely saddled with the risk-averse, highly process-oriented HR machine we’ve created aren’t we?

Not if my hunch is right. And my hunch is that there is a new show in town. A game that is changing and WILL BE changed by the time many of those currently embarking on their study programmes as aspiring HR professionals get their hands on influential roles.


I’ve synthesised what I am seeing as a new form of HR – I call it Supercharged HR – that focuses NOT on the low hanging fruit of guidelines and predictable models but in these 5 areas as the new signatures of a function revving up for a place at the front of the grid.

Firstly the Digitisation and Socialisation of work. Not just online but everything augmented, efficiency charged and available through digital platforms and socialised constructs. I’ve seen enough case studies and evidence of emerging practice to feel we are moving beyond the solo, hunkered down travesty of work we call an email inbox. Email is finally losing its vice-like grip on our work. “”How was your day honey?” “So so, I did some emails, had some meetings and did a few more emails”. FFS. Is THIS what we call a meaningful and productive way to be? There’s a person over in the next block of desks, I’ll email them something. FFS again. However what we are seeing with developments in ALL SORTS of digital technology applications, platforms and production mechanisms is not like the electronic processing of manual processes we’ve seen since the early 1990s. No this is game changing digital (to use Dave Coplin’s RSA Talk) reimagining of work. We don’t convert crappy manual processes to electonic and hope it’s mildly more efficient. We overhaul, reboot and radicalise using digital tools that give us a whole different way of working.

My twee example here is the abomination we call “tracked changes” in a word document. FFS. What a dog’s breakfast of a technology solution this is. Instead we now have cloud documents with editable and traceable changes dynamically updated as we make the changes. One is an electronic abhorration of the red pen mentality. The other is like we’re all virtually huddling around a shared piece of drafting construct. More efficient? I think so. More useful? I think so. More like a tiny example of what we can now do with digital technology because we’re thinking and acting differently? I hope and believe so.

Secondly comes my hobby horse of late. The decline of the job propostion. Also known (by Nilofer Merchant and the great Mervyn Dinnen) as work not jobs. Instead of hiring people for a JOB whatever that is – largely 40 hours of packaged up, boxed in, hopeful “outputs” from people, we have work to do. Work which can be allocated on the basis of who has the skill, experience, drive, ingenuity and calling to do that work. So we move away from a boxed commodity like “you can have this car in any colour as long as it’s black” to have-it-how-you-like roof, wing mirrors, alloys, seats, ICE, decals, spotlights even steering wheel type kind of car. So it feels “just for me”. Instead of hiring people for a job, we allocate work to those who have the skills to do it. And they bid and acquire work and make that akin to a job if we need them to. And we have a workforce of people who have 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 35, 40 hours “contracts” to do work. Not a job. But work. There is (in my mind anyway) a HUGE difference. Now before all you orthodoxers run to your “that’s not economical, feasible or practical” argument it is. I’ve seen examples where people self organise, allocate tasks and work to each other and themselves and don’t need a 40 hour construct to make ends meet or have a meaningful existence. Not just a freelance/contract/zero hours hero existence either. CHOICE. I feel the job is dead; long live work.

Thirdly is the demise of managers. What? Say you orthodoxers again. If that’s your attitude then have it. I don’t believe we’ll ever see the back of management (but definitely need to in its current guise). Why would people vote this model down when it’s successfully employed mediocre but arrogant so-and-so’s for so long? But we have created an artificial need for many (and I’ve been one of them) and the number is up. When so many examples are now surfacing of flattened hierarchies; of managerless and very successful companies; of democratic workplaces; results only work environments; self organised teams and of challenger organisations. The need for managers should be a continually demising question and not – in the past – of the creation of layers and sub layers of people given managerial titles to show their “progress and talent”. More specialties and less silos please.

Fourthly, the demand for craft. It is almost impossible to buy a poor toaster or a laptop that doesn’t work (software is another matter on occasions). We have used lean and Kaizen and Six-Sigma to bring efficiencies in production like never before. The roboticised production elements only serves to keep the levels of manufactered goods at an all time effective. However, we might not want mass produced “ikeafied” products. We want art on our walls that is unique. A table made especially for us. A bespoke bed. A set of bathroom fittings we designed from Greek lava glass that reminds us of Santorini.

We will see people want to spend their money not on mass-manufactered same stuff all the time but on unique personalised stuff. Want an iPhone in mother of pearl and not just white, gold, black or silver? You got it.

Finally or fifthy, is the one that some might roll their eyes on because it uses a word some have grown to dislike due to its overuse. Disruption as usual is how I’ll tag it (with a tribute to the marvellous Thomas Wedells-Wedellsborg’s Innovation as usual). I have favoured disrupt over innovate here because I see more that needs disrupting than purely innovating on. Innovation was a much hyped word about 5 years ago and has been somewhat replaced by Hacking and Disrupting (due to Clay Christensen and Gary Hamel largely) but I think with good reason. OK people are hacking everyhing now and disrupting their own cereal selection in the supermarkets but seriously, we have that many tired, floppy and useless HR and workplace practices they need (IMHO) disrupting rather than innovating on. Disrupting becomes a favoured term as it retains the best of the older practice but disrupted by new lines; ways and approaches. So to many this is safer ground than total reinvention. The iPhone was a disruption to the mobile phone market just as the MacBook was to laptops before it. Jobs wasn’t an innovator – Gladwell righlty wrote about Isaacson’s book on Steve – he was a tinkerer. Tablet computers were tried by Toshiba and others before Apple blew it up with the iPad. But they themselves were disrupted by the Samsung Tab, Kindle Fire and Google Nexus as mini tablets. Innovation is harder and maybe less likely to truly take off than a disrupted product, service or methodology.

Disrupting is the new overhaul; reboot or reconstitute. Hacking is the new tinkering, tweaking and customising. It’s just words. Get over their over use and think about what they create and the impact they have. Yes people will misuse them and try and sound trendy. They will get found out. Worry ye not.

So that’s my future 5 game changers for HR. Focus on these 5 and look after the other things that make people and organisations tick and we’re in for a pleasureable ride.

So my view is that the new intake of HR professionals coming out of the universities will get that they are digitised; distinct; dynamic.

They will be digital first.

They will see in the decline of the job proposition into a more productive and meaningful work one.

They will overhaul and see the demise of the manager malpractice we now have.

They will demand craft from people.

They will disrupt as usual.

There is hope. I am glad I am in HR. It is the best time to be in HR.

These guys deserve our support not our predictive lecturing and rolled eyes when they want to hack an orthodoxy. Give them a break.

Else it is game over for meaning at work and we can all go work on a pointless role in a business park in Somewhereville.

Let them change the game.