Posts Tagged ‘PunkHR’

This is as much of a tribute blog as I could construct.  It’s not sycophantic, it’s sincere.  It’s still #PunkHR though because it’s not how most people would pay homage to someone who’s looked out for them, looked after them, guided them and backed them to the hilt.  Even when things got complicated, tricky and difficult and it didn’t go to the agreed plan.

It started in 2009 with that incoming new boss feeling.  You know the one – that “ooh what are they going to be like?” and most importantly for me “will they get me?”  I both love and loathe in equal measure the parting of company with bosses and the establishment of a relationship with a new boss.  I’ve had some amazing ones in my time.  And like everyone, I’ve had some utter planks.

I don’t set out to be an awkward individual.  I’m responsive, adaptable and capable of changing most of the way I do things to suit another’s preferred style of leadership, management or supervision – whatever they deem appropriate.

Being a Punk though, after a while, if their style gets in the way, I rebel and I work around them.  If they are utterly underwhelming and uninspiring, I seek out and get that from elsewhere, from other people.  If they are utterly inept, then I’ll just cut them out completely and do whatever the heck I want to do the job I have been employed to do with the utmost creativity, energy and impact.

Now, when you get someone who is open, willing, able, who gets you, who loves what you do, who has the quiet word in the ear, who understands your motivations, who absolutely gets the best from you then that’s that rarity that is the inspirational boss.  Someone who I would – literally – take the bullet for.

I have now embarked on something new for my career proposition where I may never have another boss again.  No-one to be inspired by or dismayed by; and for that I am both sad and excited.

  • Sad because I’ve just left a boss who is the inspiration behind my words above.
  • Excited because the planks I’ve had are probably still living out their petty mediocrities somewhere else driving some poor so-and-so up the wall.

Let’s not dwell on the planks though.  They’re not what this is about however they DO make you appreciate the inspirers more.

Now the tribute – from the off, she was into everything I had already done and believed in it.  I felt valued already.  What was staggering was the immediate support and intervention provided when others didn’t get me and went on the attack.  She took some heat, and gave me advice and most of all was there in a non-judgemental and guiding manner.  This was SO important to me at a time when I was still finding my feet as a Head of function with a budget and key leadership role to fulfill.

She then backed everything I suggested and rarely even questioned why.  She admitted to being amazed by some of the suggestions; recognised so much of why things were being suggested and most of all TRUSTED me that things were the right things to do.

She stepped into the limelight when it was right to do so and she took the flak when she didn’t need to but did it anyway.  Unbelievably valued interventions – and JUST when it was right to do so.

As a boss, you like to know there’s transparent, honest dialogue – never any doubt.  Fantastic at discretion, immense in sharing, valuable in giving advice, open to receiving it and just open to new ideas at each and every turn.

Here’s a classic example of how fantastic she was.

A round the table discussion at a management meeting

The leader says in turn – “So Manager X, you do that plus this by then; And Manager Y you do this and that by then; and Perry, <pause and think> just keep doing what you do.”

No greater testimony ever existed to how much someone trusted, valued and believed in me.  I’ll never get that again. That’s partly why I don’t think I’ll ever have a boss again.  It’s inconceivable that I could find a repeat of what I have had for over 3 years.

I’ll now look after myself, my enterprise and work with clients.  I’ll put my heart and soul into whatever I do with them as I know no other way, but there will never be another boss to top the one I’ve just left.

There’s a lesson here I guess, love your rebels for their rebelliousness and you’ll get them to outperform time and again.  Even rebels need someone to look after them; believe in them and inspire them.

I have memories I will treasure for a long time I hope to renew our collaboration as a rebellious duo of HR Punk-consultants.


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..!