Reviews and reflections

Often, triggered by my blog or other channel, people send me articles or reports or similar that they think will be of interest to me.     Although it can take me a while to get round to reading whatever they’ve sent, I usually find that the document does hold something that is of interest and I’m grateful to have been sent it. 

This week I’ve managed to read five things I’ve been sent, and I’ll briefly explain why I was interested. (Note the stuff I’m focusing on here is not related to specific pieces of work I am doing like Terms of Reference, or project plans. What I’m talking about here is info that is sent my way as part of my general interest in organisation design).

But first, a slight – but relevant – digression. I get the FS newsletter, and this week’s linked to an excellent article about attentive reading, making the point that, ‘Consuming information is not the same as acquiring knowledge. No idea could be further from the truth.’ The article made me stop and think whether I was just consuming information from the 5 documents, or actually acquiring knowledge.   

Thus,  I re-read the documents asking myself, ‘What reflections or questions come out of my reading of this?’ Below some thoughts on the five pieces. (NOTE: I am not endorsing any organisation or its products/services). 

 The Future of HR – seen through two different lenses:  (From Kennedy Fitch). I was sent this because I was one of the people interviewed as part of the research. The goal was to discover if the near future (up to 2025) of HR and the world of work look the same for two distinct groups of people – HR practitioners and ‘thinkers’ about the world of work who are also known for their views on the HR function.  

It’s a well-structured report, clearly laying out the thinker and practitioner stance on each topic area covered.  It discusses first where the agreement between the two groups lay, and second where the differences lay. For example, on the topic of trends, both groups agreed that three major trends will impact the world of work: accelerated digitalisation, personalisation and flexibility.   However, the two groups offered further, and different trends beyond these three. The practitioner group talking about speed of business, diversity and teamwork, while the thinkers talked about expectations of private sector companies, role shifts/empowerment, and management and organisation development across geographies.

 As I was reading it, some questions came to mind:  the report focuses on private sector organisations, would its findings hold true for public sector and third sector ones? 

 I wondered how HR functions would actually make the shift suggested in the report – how is the education and training of HR practitioners adapting? Is it in tune with these findings? 

Four times the word ‘brave’ is used as in ‘the HR function needs to be brave’.   What does it take to be brave? Are HR practitioners capable of this? What would be in it for them if they were?  Does the report miss an opportunity to explore this offering real practical examples and suggestions on what it takes to become a brave HR function?

 Point of View Paper The Slingshot Effectand research report Fit For Change. Both pieces tackle ‘trying to get momentum for transformation out of the ongoing meta-crises.’   (From Prophet)

The two reports cover similar ground on what it takes to make transformative change, using their Human Centred Transformation Model™. They use the analogy of the human individual, talking about organisational DNA, mind, body and soul. The Fit for Change report offers some suggestions for making the transformational change and there’s a ‘new model for change fitness’ that would make an interesting workshop discussion, that talks about obstacles, milestones, journeys, flows, and plays. The Slingshot report offers four pathways to create organisational resilience. Again, this would make the basis of a structured workshop discussion, particularly if it focused on what would taking each of the four pathways mean in practice (and are we already on one of the paths).  

 However, having said this, what I’m left with after reading these two reports is some unease with the implied promise that there are easy answers – ‘follow this path and you’ll get there.’ Is this true?  To my mind, we are all currently, in a massive learning experiment. We don’t know yet what the impact of the last year is or will be, we are feeling our way. 

Remember the lines from the poem by Antonio Machado, ‘Traveler, there is no path, The path is made by walking. By walking the path is made’ ?  I wonder if there are ways of giving ourselves and each other confidence that ‘feeling our way’ is the only way and we must do this collaboratively, collectively and reflectively?  This question left me to ponder another question: how do we give ourselves and each other confidence to work in a situation where there is no prior path (and no right answer)?

 The ebook  fromOrgvue produced in support of their Hybrid Working Future campaign – ‘The hybrid working blueprint offers ‘5 steps to make hybrid working work for your business strategy’. I’ve written before on hybrid working so won’t repeat here. What the orgvue report offers, beyond the 5 steps, is a SaaS platform/solution on which you can make people related ‘data-driven decisions on how to continuously adapt and do better in the future’. In some organisations I’ve worked in, orgvue has been in use so I have some familiarity with it   

 The questions that I’m mulling having read their report are around the data that is captured – how is it interpreted and by whom?  The point made by statistician, Nate Silver sprang to mind, ‘The numbers have no way of speaking for themselves. We speak for them. We imbue them with meaning.’[1] The report notes that ‘In this blueprint, we’ve outlined the main steps today’s organizations need to take to fully capture the opportunities hybrid working offers’. If we imbue the data with meaning and we are only looking for opportunities, then how will we see the possible down-sides, risks and consequences (positive and negative)  of it?’  

Maven7-OrgMapper offers Organizational Network Analysis (ONA). They  sent me a ‘primer’ on ONA and the features of Org Mapper. Incidentally, their  email gave me a new word ‘videomonials’ which was fun.   The primer is a useful intro to the topic – ‘It enables leaders to look beyond the traditional hierarchies of their organization and drive enhanced collaboration through in-depth analysis of the organization’s formal and informal networks.’

 Much work is going on around ONA, see for example, Rob Cross’s extensive work on it.  My view is that ONA will be of growing benefit in organisation design work, but along with the strengths of looking at organisation through networks of influence, it also has caveats around data interpretation, see a 2010 research paper on this Analyzing the Flow of Knowledge with Sociometric Badges which though old highlights the concerns which are still pressing. 

What have you reviewed and reflected on this week? Let me know.   

  [1] Silver, N., The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction, Penguin, 2013

Image: Simon Hennessey