Posts Tagged ‘HR’

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

A famous statement from the Spider Man films, and one that I think sums up a lot of the human potential/performance situations we see in work.

Many of us have acquired experience, which when matched with developed skill and application of those abilities in delivering great outcomes gives us power. Situational, hierarchical or social power.

It is with that in mind that I think about the use of power. How do we yield our “power-base”? Especially in a profession all about the people and the good things we need people to do in pursuit of organisational or business goals to make successful enterprises and the thus make the “world go ’round”.

Power can be corrupting. Alpha Male syndrome can be protective and destructive yet power can be brilliant. It can push us to achieve what we didn’t even know we could achieve.

Power in this instance is the power of someone with something to offer, sharing that with someone who needs that something, in order to help them build their power-base. Increase their effectiveness. Confidence boosted. Options created. Energy generated.

So that’s why I’ve decided to give what I have to the CIPD’s “Steps Ahead Mentoring” programme.  I am matched and waiting for my collaborator to come back to me and arrange our first chat.

Young people. That group of people who happen to be born before a lot of us and who are now venturing from being educated and prepared to being productive and purposeful about their work. Work being the key society enabler in civilisation, economic prosperity and personal satisfaction.

It’s easy to think “someone else will be better at this than me” or “where will I find the time to help someone younger?” Yet here’s an example that happened to me which made a huge difference in my life and work-related success.

Rewind to 2000. I had just been successful in securing one of the biggest jobs in my entire career. Part of a huge IT-based programme of business improvement and change. I was more excited than you can imagine.

Yet tinged with excitement came huge self-doubt. I was suddenly thrust into a situation with revered academics. Big-hitting business leaders. Experts. Established society leaders and people with brains bigger than planets.

Luckily I had a wise boss. Someone I knew a little before I joined and we set about looking at what value I could add to his work; our work; the work.

He was, and I bet still is, someone who’s intellect could captivate any meeting/presentation and who’s gentle and calm delivery would have people leaning in and tuned in.

I was NONE of those in my mind. Energetic, informed and passionate was – to  me – nowhere near what was required to hold court on the controversial, far-reaching and much-needed topics we were there to deliver on.

And yet he saw something in me – potential perhaps – that he wanted to work with. He was clever enough not to clone me into him. He instead gave me measure, balance, calmness, insight, belief. Belief being the biggest one. He and I double headed presentations and speeches; workshops and meetings and generally became a double act. We complemented each other.

Gradually, as his workload changed and I was more confident, he stepped back. Sometimes he cancelled at late notice. I took it that he believed I could do it and so I got on with it. He then just handed the entire game over to me.

He believed in me. He helped me believe in myself. I felt enabled, empowered and enlightened.

So it’s this BELIEF that I am most looking forward to helping create in my mentee (duff word but has come to be the term we use).

Belief is a powerful thing. It’s the antidote to overconfidence which is where trouble begins. Belief is the key to outstanding human endeavours. It is the crucible factor in us stepping up where others have either messed up or exited swiftly.

Belief is where ideas are given life and drive. Belief is where we can be humble yet confident. Belief is where we go to when we have moments of doubt. Belief is our energy cell that props us up when the other chemicals like adrenalin and dopamine are spent.

Believe in a better future? Then build that with those who are going to live there when we’ve moved on. That’s “young people” by the way.

Cue George Benson/Whitney Houston “Greatest Love Of All”…well that’s got to be better than being a “Belieber” right?



So why on earth would a huge global hotel chain have relevance with SME conference?

Well loads when they are franchising small to medium enterprises running their own hotels using the branding and buying power of a franchiser.

So Interchange and Consort Hotels know a lot about SMEs and the way they approached their own organisation was in keeping with the agility, simplicity and action-oriented approaches Peter Cheese and Clive Hutchinson of Cougar Automation mentioned as being so key.

Asking the simple question “What is it about working here that means so much to you?” is just a great question to ask. From it came some lovely values like making people smile everyday, and thinking big but acting small to get going.

Relevant. Human. Worthy.

There is a still a lot to do admits the CEO and head of Learning, but this has re-centred people on what it means to people to be part of I&C Group/ Best Western.

Video vignettes were used here but they were so natural and not staged, you could smell the authenticity of them. Real people talking about what really matters.

An organisation that has a big reach with rooms in hotels across 108 countries adopting a small business mentality to everything they do. Keeping it simple by inviting the board/exec to share a slice of pizza with people as a way of grounding board meetings and bringing excitement and opportunistic engagement to something normally stuffy and corporate grey.

A name check to our HR colleague on a walk around @FloraMarriott was another human touch – Flora was key in the values work and took so much heart from the boundary pushing elements of them, she left Best Western to walk the length of the UK. Bless her.

I was pleased that this example encouraged us that simple things can make a huge difference and small actions with big thinking is something all SMEs can do.

After a quick break we reconvened to hear from Jane Middlemiss. Not of the TV presenter variety but of the logistics and warehousing types from ILG.

An organisation founded by streetwise (not bookwise) entrepreneurs. Doing really well and having an ambitious growth strategy inherited by Jane as the incoming HR Director. Well, incoming HR division/function.

What was heartening here was that Jane had been in HR roles before and whilst there were hallmarks of the archetypes we know are traditional HR practice, Jane took a totally relevant, people-centred approach which was in keeping with that which would help ILG be the place it aspired to be.

With a limited budget, ie no budget, Jane took over and instead of cautious, perfected processes, Jane took a fleet of foot, iterative approach to the HR agenda BUT there was a plan, it all lined up to the strategic direction of ILG, to the key deliverables the Exec Team were setting and to drive up peoples’ connection to the overall agenda and future direction.
All the components were there but behind a brand that meant something to warehousing, forklift drivers and clerical staff alike and a regular bulletin

And proving size isn’t important (!) the graduate scheme of 1 still proved valuable even for the 1 graduate given an MBA-busting tour of duty across the business. And that worked as did Jane’ s other talent initiatives around on boarding and career paths.

I felt a sense of comfort and inspiration from Jane’s work. I recognised the hallmarks and I applauded the bespoking to make it


We then moved onto Hillary Graves and Little Dish – more on that in blog 3; along with our own hackathon in the room plus thoughts over lunch.

A great day so far..!

Relevant, human and real

So here I am at CIPD’s HR in SMEs Conference on 13 May 2013 in London.

Dr Jill Miller, who lead on this “first in research” with SMEs around HR/people management practices and the link to performance and growth got us started.p A beautiful sunny day and a packed room.

Peter Cheese as CEO of the CIPD, gave an opening keynote which really rammed home why this research was so necessary and so overdue. 99.9% of businesses are small to medium enterprises. WHAT? that is staggering. Only .1% are those behemoth organisations we hear so much about.

So there is clearly a huge market of people (14.1 million) who work in the SME environment yet, as Peter Cheese says, the HR models and practice seems geared to larger organisations and so why on earth would SMEs grapple with this and make good on their employment law and so on?

So the relevance of the CIPD to SMEs is something he believes in fiercely. Those SMEs that are helping take up the slack from the larger organisations for employment of skilled people across the UK.

Peter highlighted a continuing of the research and a chance to pick up and drive HR and learning practice in SMEs to fuel this drive in employment and performance growth.

One of the pioneering organisations that were involved in the research Jill Miller led on was Cougar Automation. Clive Hutchinson the MD came to talk to his fellow SME leaders.

Firstly Clive started well with a slide that had some people in unconventional dress and poses. As you watching corporate video users? This said more to me about his company than a 3 minute slick film. Bring yourself to work Clive said.

Great way to start. Clive then gave a humble account of how he changed the way Cougar Automation works and feels.

For a start, he was influenced by Derek Williams of the WOW awards. Derek’s simple but effective take on how to deliver exceptional customer experience hit Clive and he brought Derek in along with his principles to shape the Cougar plan/strategy.

This simplicity was coupled with Clive’s discovery of the Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton book, “Now Discover Your Strengths”. Reading this book not only changed his view on himself, but also he thought that others would benefit from a “review of themselves”.

So he bought books, and put out a call that a free book was in reception, all he wanted was a download of what they found out about themselves. And the something marvellous happened.

People discovered they were under using strengths. They were doing things they struggled with and needed some help to get some traction on. People even volunteered themselves up as being in the wrong role.

Very quickly, they saw an increase in satisfaction from customers and clients. They saw their profits and successes multiply. And they saw people being more bothered about want they did.
It is literally that simple. Self discovery; action based on that and then continued focus on their strengths was a recipe for successful people management practices and not, as Clive admitted, following the traditional routine of appraisals and reviews. Clive has asked his people not to recruit to vacancies but to recruit stars. And this way they would grow through the acquisition of stars.

Clive then talked about how they recruit those stars…

Aptitude; or strengths
Attitude; and
Skills (optional and depends on circumstances)

Recognising the latter can be taught and has already paid dividends in Cougar Automation. How Clive recruits for attitude based on people aligning to what Cougar stands for not because they have a technical skill.

What I was left with in reviewing Clive’s session was that the simple matter of people discovering where they are at their best is lost in most places, but is the key element to Cougar Automation driving their business, making their customers happy and building a great place to work.


Clive also gave us a top tip. Do enter service awards. Not only for benchmarking and feeling of pride but for a stack of “free learning”

Next up…Interchange and Consort Hotels and International Logistics Group


La Pinoche

There are a number of top blogs out there around HR and the world of work and this week has seen some corkers.  @neilmorrison blogged around this here:

Neil Morrison Banner

and I mean this respectfully – he became the #ConnectingHR Seth Godin (who blogs here).

Seth Godin

Why is that you might ask?  Well, for me Neil became our Seth with this blog because he cleverly put a few words out with a HUGE resonance.  So huge that every HR blogger out there should pick up their drafting shoes and get blogging about this.  Poor performers – it’s our fault.  And it is.


Now I know HR has performed a lot of self-flagellation in its recent past.  I entered the profession officially around 2003 and it was a stark realisation I’d not expected.  I doubted I would be popular by being in HR but the disdain, the licking of wounds and the acceptance of the position took me by surprise.


We criticised ourselves over a poor service proposition; beat ourselves up for being out of touch and cried into our skinny lattes over our lack of imagination and inventiveness.


Then we said enough is enough and we started to move out of our own shadows and started talking up commerciality; the performance game and organisational effectiveness.


We included agendas around talent; business savvy and engagement and yet STILL we haven’t cracked some basic fundamentals.


Organisations continually hire the wrong people; promote people who don’t deserve it and then to cover their ineffectiveness restructure and pay people off.  It’s not their fault.  They have played an imperfect system and gained.


We have to hold ourselves to account for a lot of those imperfect systems and processes which just don’t cut it.


Our fundamental reason for being is to be the experts helping the organisations we serve get the best of their people and in doing so people get a fair deal back for that.  It starts with the best people found in the first place and we are the ones (largely) with carriage and ownership of how we do that.


Now what this is NOT is an attack on the recruitment arm of HR.  It’s still partly your fault Recruiters – as much as it is all component parts of HR.


You know what though?  Now is the time to accept that it IS our fault and do something about it.  We are not in a position to delay but equally no token, knee-jerk reactions and programmes of HR initiatives.  That’s been our playbook up ‘til now and doesn’t seem to have worked and will probably deter our businesses from believing this will be anything different.  A four-legged stool or a 2×2 and we’re done for.

But different we need.  So what do we do?


I WISH I had all the answers.  I do know though that the current system is just not good enough.


Maybe Jean Tomlin’s LOCOG / London 2012 machinery has a lot to offer us – so many people with such diverse backgrounds delivering well?  We all know there was the the Army having to come in and bail out the Group4 proposition / issues but even that seemed to work.  Is what happened throughout London 2012 a replicable model for the workforce of forever and not just for a summer?



Maybe Morning Star (HBR Blog here) ; Wholefoods (nice article here) and the Hackmeister @profHamel’s case studies (here) hold the key?


They do appear to create a different dynamic in the workplace and have a different method for finding people; hiring them; setting them to be of their best and continuing to thrive in this thing we call work.


Maybe we need some seismic shock to force change you might say?  Erm, hang on, we’re still mired in the longest recession situation since the Great Depression with more societal and welfare issues than we’ve ever faced before.  WE HAVE THAT SEISMIC SHOCK RIGHT WITH US NOW. But we are the frogs in the gradually boiling pan.  We are coping; there is hope.  Yes there is hope but NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT and Neil’s blog is the perfect place to start.


I say start because this needs follow on;


  • inventive thinking;
  • passion and drive;
  • a root out of all those who deny the cause and will get in the way;
  • an ascendancy of challenger spirits (see Khurshed Dhenugara’s work here); and
  • some of the cleverest, most informed and creative thinking and doing HR has ever put its name to.


Can we do this?  Yes we can. Sorry obligatory Obamaism there.  But we can.


We have enough people with the requisite skill; experience; insight; drive; zeal; fresh thinking.  But they’re not lined up together.  We are a disparate group of champions and stalwarts; modest genii and decent hard workers yet we also have some drag on our trajectory from within.  Some people drive with the handbrake on or never get out of 3rd gear and all they worry about is speed cameras.

wind tunnel


So how do we do this?


I think the @CIPD has already given us a chance/start.  The forthcoming Hackathon using Gary Hamel’s infrastructure could see us let all that frustration; ideas; and energy out towards a more collective way to cease the trickle of our own disappointment and stem the tide of our under-appreciation.


Why should we do this? Well because we are to blame for poor performers.


Yes they have responsibility to perform per the contract they take on in return for pay; but if they see a chance to make a living or are even delusional about their own levels of performance, you cannot blame them for the first “mile” of this experience – so we are responsible for putting them there.  We are responsible for not cracking why managers can be the most mediocre and ineffective members of our tribe and we are responsible for not taking ourselves to account and ridding ourselves of our own “drag” factors.


Please get on board the Hackathon – it is a chance to get our thoughts straight and now is the time for any and all thinking on how we get the right people in; connecting them to a cause worth working on; and seeing just how fabulous our working lives can be no matter how tedious and menial or complex and stressful the role may appear to be.


We need as many hackers, punks and jazz-cats on this as possible; all welcome; just have an attitude, a belief and ideas to share and that’s how we can make things happen.


We have SO MUCH to get right;


  • how we find and recruit the best people;
  • look after their well being and enable them to do brilliant things;
  • skill them beyond their own wildest dreams;
  • create ascension and transcendence in work;
  • be dignified about the things that just don’t work out;
  • find the right place; situation; connections; tools; methods and dialogue that continues to make people thrive;
  • handle the downs of life and the inevitable twilight elements with compassion and humanity;
  • work out our physical and spiritual environment that makes work utterly amazing; and
  • engage in rewards and acknowledgement that gives people’s purpose a sense of legacy and place in the cosmos.

Stop Whining


Better stop the whining, get thinking and then crack on eh?




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.


Or is it a vital aspect of ANY forward looking movement?

I recently had an email exchange with the future of HR. That’s Chloe Green to her friends and family. She is the future CEO of the CIPD to me. (@ChloeGreen28 on Twitter)

Anyway, the exchange was about Succession Plans. And I came up with this definition for what Succession Plans are there for. I said they should “Deliver a future-proofed organisation by covering key roles/skills that are known to be essential to the business together with people’s aspirations and abilities to move into those roles. More importantly in modern times, succession plans have to increasingly build on people’s skills for roles that may not even exist at the time the plan was created. Key skills like digital competence; agility; networking; story-telling and transitioning will help people adapt to new roles and help the business cover key areas to keep their business driving forward.”

But there’s something wrong and succession plans don’t work. I’ve attended a few seminars recently with MPs; HRDs and Business Leaders. They all say people issues are as taxing and dis-enabling to growth as finance issues. Some of it is skills shortages, some of it is just not finding the right people in the first place. My view is that a succession plan means these are risks that you can mitigate against having. But they don’t work. They’re not Punk enough. OK not all the issues with people are down to succession plans, but if the people plans (which included succession elements) were effective those people I heard wouldn’t be able to give that as a big issue.

So what’s wrong with succession plans you ask? Why pick on them? Why do we need to get all PunkHR about them?

One reason is from my experience (and I was once guilty of this also) HR seems a little too keen to get a hold of succession planning when the reality of it is, good leadership is about the creation of more people who can give their best and lead. That’s a succession plan.

It isn’t HR’s fault though that there’s a keenness to grab hold of succession planning and own it. Here’s why I think HR have pushed, grabbed and owned succession planning and then maybe how we can let it go again and put it back where it belongs – with managers working with, and supported by, HR.

Here’s my reasoning why HR has too much keenness about succession plans.

(A) The business doesn’t think about it enough.

Sweating their human assets is often the sign of a managed, high-achieving organisation. Something Fons Trompenaars calls a “guided missile”. One that may well implode when people get fed up of being a commodity. Some managers and businesses move from recruitment to recruitment replacing people and covering skills gaps when in reality, if they took a developmental approach; a longer term vision and anticipated churn, they’d create overlap; stretch for people and generally make sure key skills are in abundance and roles can be covered.

Why doesn’t the business think about it enough? Maybe because no-one reports on “have you created overlap?” no they report on “Have you hit that deadline and / or dealt with 200 calls”. It’s not that valued or measured. Until people leave that is.

(B) Managers don’t do it well enough.

Even if a business knows how valuable future-proofing is, some managers are so poorly equipped or so inadequately adept that it never takes shape. How on earth can any manager talk themselves out of something as exciting, energising and important as skilling people up to do more; be more versatile and simultaneously be stimulated by learning something new? I know they’re busy bless them, and I know some people have been promoted to lead when that wasn’t really their niche, but it’s time managers realised that a fundamental element of their role is to build people’s capability and create more capacity in the event of people no longer being there.

Now more than ever what’s in peoples’ heads is often the most valuable asset a company has no control over. That’s not just knowledge in there either…it’s acquired skills, cultural architecture, relationship facets and general deployable know-how. Yet managers are happy to leave it all in their peoples’ heads and not share that across the teams.

(C) People hoard and protect.

Many of us view our knowledge, skills or niche qualities as something to protect and therefore preserve our employment status. We start from a point of “if I share what I know too much, others will usurp me or make me irrelevant”. It’s not entirely the case but clearly some role-based paranoia can cause people to not want to develop others. We reward people for the performance they put in (of sorts) and this, IMHO, causes people to want to protect what they know to give them a competitive performance edge.

(D) Short-termism rules.

We must have all seen those people who fly in, create loads of initiatives, get some going and then off the back of that “success” move on elsewhere. I call these people Triumph Trolls. They play on a couple of quickish triumphs but are really troll-like in that they leave a nasty trail of destruction behind. They’re then gone before this is all brought to account. These are the sorts of people who surround themselves with diligent, effective, driven people who deliver but then when they leave they drop them like a hot stone and leave them to pick up the rubbish left behind. With managers like this is it any wonder they don’t have succession plans? To a Triumph Troll, succession and legacy is the last thing on their mind. Quick wins are all that counts to a Triumph Troll.

(E) Transience is seen as a desirable trait.

Yes folks, the regular mover is seen as a success architect. They assimilate rapidly, they generate momentum quickly so why would they stick around? Simple, they should hang on a bit as legacy should be part of their package. Sure use of Interims has increased as has fixed-term contracts, but there’s no excuse to leave something not just improved, but sustainable, behind you. Unfortunately, quick-burst fixers are in demand. Largely to fix the messes of either a disillusioned predecessor or another journey-man fixer who left their own mess behind. We almost need the recruitment/selection version of Watchdog who expose these situational bounty hunters. Too regular a mover, worrying propensity to press “eject” before they are ejected; too infrequent a mover, not as skilled or experienced enough perhaps. And since when did loyalty disappear? OK the commoditisation of people is bound to erode some of the loyalty (and the CIPD’s thought provoking “Where has all the TRUST gone?” gives answers to some of this) but is it really a case of zero loyalty now? Surely there’s a balance to this from both employers with packages and approaches that invoke loyalty yet don’t create a gentile country club; mixed with employees who care enough about their craft to be loyal to the place that pays them and keeps them safe in return for use of that craft? Loyalty is probably a blog of its own so I might do something on Punk loyalty.

Anyway, succession plans may be construed as some desperate attempt to create some locked-in loyalty and I’ve seen myself how a talent programme can create that – and build up people to leave, so it’s imperfect in that respect too.

So what are my answers or suggestions you are thinking?

I have some, but this is a bigger issue than this blog and seeps into David McLeod and Nita Clarke’s task force on engagement; the Gen X, Y, Millennials thing; economic crises borne out of irresponsible financing and the rise of new commercial/knowledge powers like India and Brazil. Yes, this issue of loyalty, succession and performance is a geo-socio one. I might invite @FlipchartRick to get on this…

My thoughts though are this:

(1) HR shouldn’t be too quick to own succession plans. To resist this, HR should get under the skin of the Employee Survey findings or Union dialogue – and answer this question “What keeps the best people here, doing their best?” and keep asking the question. Things change so rapidly, you cannot ask this yearly. Quarterly maybe? Be a Punk and pick up the street vibe not the glossy chart sounds.

(2) HR should become the confidante for people looking to leave. Don’t conduct exit interviews, it’s too late by then. Hold a truly confidential counsel with people with the movement itch. Find out what’s tempting and calling to them and act on this before they leave. Let the rebels rebel with you.

(3) HR should be belligerent in ensuring managers take seriously, are capable in, and execute on, succession plans. Introduce some new reward which incentivises the creation of future-proofed people and functions. Not pogoing at a Punk gig is not an option.

(4) HR should be the organisational wide arbitrator for transience across the business. To avoid resource hoarding and again, incentivise people, to give up their best for something better/stimulating but in the same organisation. Share stages and guest musicians to ensure freshness and creativity.

(5) Once succession plans are owned and executed on by the business, HR should stretch them through brokered partnerships with other organisations. This way talent can temporarily exit to learn and improve. I call this bungy development – daring, brave but on elastic so it never severs the organisational ties. It’s a secondment if you will but that sounds too dull to be PunkHR.

(6) HR should get into more effective and impactful measurement of the value created by succession plans. And not just hiring costs. All the culture, knowledge, relationships, innovative thinking, discretionary effort, buzz, that stuff. That refers back to my press blog about the value agenda. Be a real disruptive Punk about what you measure and how you measure it.

(7) HR should adopt the role of “dignified loss adjusters”. Succession Plans will reveal people who have failed to keep up, have gotten stuck, didn’t belong in the first place and need to move on. Not dead wood, but not healthy new shoots either. HR should help these people find a new place to be their best, and create space for healthy new shoots to come on through. Again, we spend so much time in capability, sick absence reviews when in reality it’s probably because the pieces just don’t fit anymore for them or their organisation. When someone wants to be MOR, fund them a safe space for easy listening to let the new Punk rebels to come through.

So that to me is Succession Planning. Not owned and delivered by HR per se. More strategically invoked and supported by HR.

Punk rock didn’t have a succession plan but the spirit lives on and the vibe just keeps on rolling. If we – particularly in HR – don’t get this right the workplace could be, well, Pretty Vacant eh?

The blogs coming out of the #connectingHR community are hotting up. The level of insight, conclusive thought and inspiration is staggering. It makes me think how lucky we are to have a thriving community of Punks, B-Boys/Fly-Girls, Casuals, Rude Boys/Girls, Mods and Rockers that the musical genre-HR linkage has gone from a novelty element to something defining our attitude and tribalisms.

All joking aside, the labels we’re creating here seem to define something quite significant – that we in HR are not content to be the butt of jokes, the maligned fluffy ones and the overlooked part of the workplace equation. We are being rebellious. We’re not having it, we’re on a mission and we’re creating a movement. I feel incredibly blessed to feel a part of that movement.

I’ll keep calling it Punk and @academyofrock Peter Cook will hopefully thank me for that – as the recent 12p increase in his book might have him rolling around in cash for his anarchic views on People Management – its all Punk Rock eh Peter? Go on, spend 12p more and get Punk Rock People Management from all good online retailers of books.

So what pearls of PunkHR wisdom (or that should really be safety-pins of wisdom) would I like to kick around this time?

Well I’m just down right narked that somehow we’re not valuing people. I don’t mean “gosh I really value what you do/support you provide”. Proper though that is, I’m talking balance sheet value; asset valuation; commodity costing; fiscal representation – monetary if you will.

Now I’m not at all economics savvy. Far from it. That bit in Trading Places where the Frozen Orange thing happens at the end – never really understood totally what they did. The stock market is a mystery and quite frankly is a bit vulgar to me. I’m not a capitalist – I’m more socialist – so the money markets always baffled me, as I thought the Stocks and Shares market was like roulette for the filthy rich. Gordon Gekko figures, panic buying selling and acting like a bear or a bull. And that it keeps crashing and lately is a bit, well, busted.

But I tell what I know is/are valuable. People. Their efforts; their generosity; their diligence. Can I please also state here that I ABHORE the term Human Capital…I can barely bring myself to say it. Absolutely ugly term IMHO. So I won’t be advocating that language. It’s about as PunkHR as Jedward..!

I do though want to see something more metric and recognised, accountancy ratified and CFO-friendly about people.

We have lots of measures around people though don’t we? Yes, the payroll system shows what a huge “cost” to every organisation people are. Hang on – COST? What the heck is that all about..? Cost? These people ARE your organisation. Not the brand, the suppliers, the legal bill, the premises. Those things are a flipping cost.

We have performance management figures, we have talent 9-box grids, we have hours worked each day; time on and off line, units per hour produced, sales figures showing closures per person, customer satisfaction results; employee survey data.

To quote the Pistols – never mind that bollocks. None of these REALLY convinces a sceptical CFO or really creates anything that describes the TRUE value of our people. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not JUST about appeasing or enticing the CFO into something. It’s because at times like these, with cuts and so on, CFOs rub their hands with glee and become all-powerful. So the CEO listens and is seduced by tales of costs cutting. In any event, there’s a challenge to better MEASURE the impact of people.

For example, we have LEANED the crap out of processes and production lines. To the point where there is no more shaving to be done. So where 200 people did a process, now there’s 50 people doing it. But those 50 are also doing a lot more then this leaned-out process and as a result are feeling the heat. The busy exec no longer has a PA and does all her own diary management etc. which she has to do over the weekend and it interrupts her family time. That kind of thing.

Where was the measure of that in the lean impact analysis? It wasn’t there because it assumed people are process robots and they can cope with stripped down processes and less people around. NOT EVERYTHING can be stripped out though. Everything is a process but not everything can be a LEAN one.

– Where is the cost of the meltdown of a perfectly good individual who has his admin support leaned and stripped out?
– Where is the true cost in lost time through sick; lost productivity through having to sick absence manage him; the cost of the loss of faith by his accounts/contacts?
– The loss of confidence in his team who now have to lead themselves or another, less regarded interim is parachuted in?
– Where is the cost of the lost potential future Director we’ve now burned out before his time..?
– Where is the lost cost of all the investment made in him with L&D up to now?

I’m trying to paint a picture of what Umair Haque calls “Thick Value” For a further definition do read his New Capitalist Manifesto book – a truly great read at a time when a new approach is needed for the capitalist model.

The THICK VALUE we need to be able to use in HR is really the TOTAL human cost of the systems we introduce, the morale we sap or create, the lack of engagement we engender through inauthentic, insincere leadership and so on.

I have described this scenario and I’d be interested if you have any thoughts on this:

An Angel Investor rocks up at your 70-strong enterprise which has been going for 3 years and is posting good figures. They offer you £200m. They don’t want to see your balance sheets; your asset registers; your brand proposition value (estimated or otherwise); your factories/offices. They just want to know the following:-
(1) how great are the people who work here? How do we value their attitudes and how do we measure/rate their contributions to overall successes achieved and plan to achieve more of?
(2) how do you know you attract and select the right people?;
(3) how much stronger could your people be with more support / a programme of development?
(4) how valuable is your leadership team at varying levels?;
(5) what are the real costs of over-work / under resourcing and capability/performance management out
(6) what are the true value creators by the workforce around ideas; service propositions and collaborative working?;
(7) what is your well being value; and finally for me
(8) what is the investment you make in people to future-proof your organisation?

An example very recently in the press gave me the belief that people have an explicit value on an organisation that can be metricised or monetised. The CEO of Esprit announced he was moving on for personal reasons. Stock plummeted. Their products, suppliers, bank balances were the same, yet because a person was leaving and the value of the enterprise was reduced. This shows PEOPLE HAVE A MONETARY VALUE which is NOT Human Capital. Where I think Human Capital failed is it tried to apply a value to people’s contributions to the product line and NOT their Social Capital; Innovation Capital; their Advocacy Capital; Generosity Capital; their Sharing Capital and of course the most significant of all their Knowledge Capital – what they have in their head.

These to me are all part of the sticky value proposition and no-one I know of is focusing and measuring on things like this. If people are, brilliant – I’d love to hear about it and share the successes.

So I am not just saying
– let’s get fiscally savvy;
– business-minded or
– data analytical.
I think it’s all of these and more. For me, it’s setting out to measure what some people say you can’t. I believe you can convert the efforts, the ingenuity, the stamina of people into something that makes a strong business case to secure that Angel Investor’s £200m.

People ARE the organisation so please let’s value that accordingly; convincingly

When Punk hit the music scene, I doubt we valued it truly then and only on looking back did we realise it put a seismic shock to the industry and created a whole new way of looking at music and fashion culture. Let’s grab the arc that is thick value around our people and get some powerful, meaningful and valuable measurements going on about our people. #connectingHR knows, believes and does some of this – let’s pool our resources and give our people the credit rating they deserve – AAA+

Pogo on!

I had such fun blogging about my zest for life. The comments and retweets gave me an endorphins rush and a sense that this #PunkHR thing really has got some merit.

And then through the marvellous @FloraMarriott a link to Peter Cook (@academyofrock) and his marvellous books and philosophies around Punk Rock People Management. Oh my I thought, I’ve unwittingly infringed (even stolen) someone else’s IP / idea. Peter though, on my connect with him was not only generous, but utterly delighted I’d gotten a similar take on things to him. We found a camaraderie only associated with rebels and wannabe (but authentic) rebels. I was even more encouraged that PunkHR and it’s movement feel and spirit of productive rebellion was something where a Godfather had now been found. PLEASE check out Peter’s work at – getting there first is something Peter is really modest about but hell, he IS a punk rocker of the highest order.

Anyway, apart from this exciting find, today I attended an event that was pure Punk. A gig at the Comedy Store that I was SO glad I attended. The event was hosted by a total Punk – Marc Lewis. What a guy. Honest, insightful and (he’ll like this) playful.

I took my notes in as creative a way as I could. I used the Paper App on so I sketched it out using words and some images I drew around them. It was my rather lame attempt at paying tribute to the principle of creativity. I was up for this.

My opening page looks like this. What is creativity? Expression of original ideas that bring value. Marc’s definition was good enough for me and he accepted that this can include a mash-up of others ideas so it’s not necessarily something that’s been done before. PunkHR as something creative according to this definition? Seemed OK. Marc talked of a terrific tutor and mentor of his John Gillard who’s work I’m going to look up and others reading this may like to also.

Marc also stated that it is natural to be creative as a child – we are at our most creative when we’re being playful. I agreed with that without hesitation and maybe my zest for life is because I am often being playful. Marc also showcased the EA Sports campaign for PEAce day

a creative programme which got online gameplayers into something bigger than games. Something Marc was very proud of as some of his students created this entire campaign.

My next set of sketches showed I was getting a little more creative myself…

Marc talked about everything being a process EVEN creativity and the equation opposite is Creativity=Knowledge+Problem+Divergent Thinker+Collaboration

Marc referenced the Futureshock book by Tofler and how he said that all processes evolve into an exponential growth curve. Loved it.

We then went through each of the component parts of the equation – part 1 – Knowledge.

Knowledge sits in fields and there are seeds in the fields that we harvest. There are two parts of knowledge – experienced and received. We have knowledge and form that into what is called the set effect – our habits like getting dressed in the same manner each morning. When we want to be creative we have to bust out of the set effect and not default to our experienced and received knowledge.

Marc then introduced 2 aspects of creativity – squirreling – making notes of our ideas. If you have an idea, wherever and whenever, note it. Otherwise it’s lost. We also have binging creativity – where we say “so what?” to things we have that we take for granted and challenge it to become creative and test the conventions we live in. Very #PunkHR.

The second part of the equation for creativity is the problem. There are ALWAYS examples of things that need a creative solution. Marc called this MESS FINDING. Deliverance is a company that will deliver a range of take-away foodstuffs as 4 lawyers working late who all wanted something different to eat and had to wait for the 4 different companies to deliver something their food.

Sainsbury’s campaign for Jamie Oliver was played and the creative way in which their marketing campaign to increase their revenue was produced “try something new”. Marc outlined the approach to increasing revenue as either: –
– steal customers from Asda or Tesco;
– increase the cost of their products;
– find new customers.

Justin King felt neither of these would work and so the “each customer buys one more thing per shop” approach came in to drive up sales and give us the “try something new” campaign.

Then we got a bit more punk and looked at Divergent LATERAL thinking and Divergent LITERAL thinking. I think we all get Lateral thanks largely to Edward De Bono. Divergent LITERAL thinking was very powerful too. The story of Alfred Harmsworth’s creation of a Penny Dreadful (a short magazine) was something I took to him creating a very 1800s version of social media – with problems from readers and solutions from readers which proved so successful, we have him to thank (!) for tabloid newspapers ergo the Daily Mail. He took a divergent literal approach which is a known problem and a list of things that can help to produce a further list of opposites in generating ideas and creating solutions. Our Pizza exercise (listing normal facets then describing opposites) is where creativity can come from. Opposites and tangents.

Then we got into Superhero mode. We were told of the features of a superhero – and herein again lies a PunkHR model – powers or skills; in service of something; a compelling cause and a uniform/trademark. We imagined the names – mine were The Limitbuster; the Wishgranter; EnergyGuy (!); The Artofthepossible Girl; Kindness; The Humour Monger and Multi-tasking Man. We then envisaged their service, their compelling cause and their trademark/uniform. A great energiser exercise if ever there was one – L&D types take note.

We ended on collaboration which is pretty self-explanatory here but it was stated by Marc that it’s rare to find creativity in one person alone. A second person adds, gives critique, and brings creativity to another level. Not many Punks are loners, they are part of a movement and often have a tribe mentality in their “being”. And we all need a guru or 2…and we all need a gatekeeper – someone who’s stance we can take to unlock creativity and adopt an approach we wouldn’t normally take. How would Malcolm McLaren or Jerry Dammers view a problem?

I left with a lot to think about in terms of being creative and the equation start to Marc’s talk really got me thinking about #PunkHR as an expressed equation. I came up with this:-

PunkHR= Attitude + acumen + rebellion + cause + individuality + belonging x unconvention.

I thought Marc Lewis was an entertaining enlightener. I will now look at creativity through the exponentially growing process that it is. And most of all, it’s playful.

Play it loud and pogo on..!