The one with the cooperative

If you read the post last week on the unconference sessions at the HR Director Business Forum in Birmingham you will know I was involved in starting one of the conversations.

I was fortunate enough to be joined by several people who it transpired were up for having a good open conversation. Credit where it’s due, they were:

  • David Clutterbuck, Professor at Oxford Brookes & Sheffield Hallam
  • Steve Moss HRD at Leaseplan
  • Michael Keating HRD at Eaton Electrical
  • David (who’s surname I didn’t write down), HR Insights

and here we are ‘unconferencing’

Photo courtesy of Jon Ingham

The topic I proposed was “Leadership Development: Making silk purses out of sow’s ears” and whilst I had a clear idea in my mind about what I meant it did appear in my haste to come up with a topic I created some confusion. The reference was not intended to refer to the participants but rather the process, how, in times like these where resources are constrained could an organisation still deliver great leadership development activity.

I made copious notes during the session and if I could find those notes now I would feel far more comfortable in writing this post but I opened the conversation with the question and about 3o minutes later we paused for breath!

Of the key points that came out of the conversation some were what you would expect but there were a couple that sparked new thought. The points were:

  • Call it something different – calling it Leadership Development ups the ante
  • There is a perception that external delivery/facilitation is better than internal
  • Involve the wider business in delivering the programme
  • Peer to peer power is often underutilised
  • External consultants have far more freedom to challenge
  • Use different businesses that are non competitive but that have characteristics you want to improve (e.g. one company in the service sector had spent time with a major supermarket understanding speed & urgency)
  • Form a cooperative with complimentary but non-competitive businesses and share internal resource i.e. your internal becomes their external

It was the last two points of discussion that got me quite excitable.

The idea of modelling characteristics from other businesses I thought was great – I have worked with other businesses on practice or processes before and used their best practice examples in developing my own work but this idea of trying to understand their characteristics really appealed to me.

When it came to the idea of the cooperative I got very excitable. The last 2 years have been a real eye opener for me on the power of developing better networks and this idea appealed on so many levels. It could be about sharing best practice, about delivering great work more cost effectively, exposing colleagues to new companies/people, developing colleagues facilitation/delivery skills and building meaningful relationships with new people/organisations. It just has so many possibilities.

The session (and it’s follow-up) demonstrated to me, yet again, the power of meeting new people, getting involved in open conversation and the ideas have been added to ‘the book’ and will be brought to bear in the next role I land in.



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7 responses to “The one with the cooperative

  1. Nicely done Rob. I’ve lost count of the number of customers that I’ve suggested your final two points to. They all nod sagely and say, oh yes there’s a good idea, we’ll do that. As and when I check back in I’m not yet aware of one who has gone on and made this work. It’s a great big opportunity there for the taking.

    Cheers – Doug

    PS – small point, there is no such thing as best practice 😉

    • Oh you are SO doing to need to expand on your P.S.!

      • I’m in agreement with the Dougster.

        Best practise infers a good way of doing something, that others can copy/emulate and feel good that they’re following what Mr Jones is doing (no pun intended). It also infers that you’re not thinking for yourself what best actually looks like, and you’re being lazy in finding a good bit of work done by someone else. Complacency is evil (as I mentioned in a post this week), and will kill in this environment. Best practise is the pre-cursor to this.

  2. What the Sukhmeister said. I couldn’t put it any better than that. Nice work, good practice even 🙂

  3. My actual comment on this post is more about the cooperative piece you’ve talked about. This is an idea which is appealing to me too. It’s what sparked off some of the thought for Altruistic L&D/HR over on the site. As Doug has said, there is great opportunity there. And if I think hard enough, some organisations have tried this. I remember Sarah Durbs describing a forum for charities and not-for-profits where they come together to share learnings.

    It does seem though, that there is no reason big bad corporates can’t do the same. Let’s take the idea a bit further. You know this ‘skills shortage’ we seem to be faced with? How about we partner with our competitors and share our workforce for set periods of time. Place agreements and all what have yous about terms and conditions, or not. But, what you are doing is suddenly building the skills of a pool of people across organisations/businesses with security and knowledge that you’re helping them, they’re help and we have a virtuous circle.

    It won’t happen, but I’d like to think it could.

  4. Thanks for sharing your notes from the session. Interesting discussion.

    What is even more interesting is how most HRDs/HR teams use information or learning acquired from such “Cooperative experience”. I know of a few examples where the outcome of such an exercise was more of “strategic imitation” rather than a new, bespoke and innovative product that will add value.

  5. The cooperative aspects you mention Rob are in some guise already happening but with the purpose of either contributing to others (altruistic/charitable) or development of staff (your internal is their external). So perhaps for some there is a further step that can be taken to move to a more mutual relationship…

    However, in my experience, many organisations have difficulty with mutual relationships internally already, let alone knowledge sharing. Knowledge Management (12yrs ago?) was meant to address this but in many respects failed. Perhaps social media has a role to play here now?

    Until organisations can mobilise their own inherent knowledge & talent effectively for their own purposes should they contemplate doing so for others? After all, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear…

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