When I was a kid one of my Dad’s friends had a Ford Granada. At the time my Dad had a Ford Cortina (for anyone under 30 – google it!) and the Granada was the bigger, better, shinier version. The thing that most intrigued me as it was the first time I had seen it was that the Granada had electric windows. Imagine – being able to open the windows without having the twist and turn the lever. It was cool!
If you think about cars their innovations follow a progression which I would describe as:
- Luxury optional extra
- Luxury defacto
- Standard optional extra
- Standard defacto
The irony of some car brands is that actually this progression gets messed around and the luxury still make an extra what the standard brands make defacto (my Ford Fiesta had a rear windscreen wiper as standard!) but largely I think the progression holds. What starts out as a wow i.e. electric windows or iPod connectivity, becomes an expectation and reaches the point where it just isn’t noticed.
I was having a conversation with a friend over the weekend who is consulting at a well known plc. She has gone in there with a specific brief and is really enjoying getting stuck into what must be a very challenging organisation. In catching up we chatted about loads of things but it was the following comment that she made that stuck in my head,
“The previous HRD left to plaudits about the redesigned, reengineered and reenergised HR function but if that’s what they call redesigned….” (I may be paraphrasing, we’d both had quite a few wines but you get the point)
I shared the analogy of the electric windows and she went on to describe an HR function that was amazing at ‘the electric windows’, ‘the iPod connector’ and the ‘dual side climate control’ but actually the engine was rubbish and the car wouldn’t move.
If you read anything (this blog included), attend a conference or get into a conversation externally it is likely you will hear about and describe whatever people think the electric windows are but does our relentless focus on the new and exciting blind us to the role we are supposed to play in the organisation?
Whilst a lot of what HR had to deliver to a business isn’t exciting or conference worthy (who wants to talk about offer letters) to return to the car analogy – without a petrol cap you won’t get fuel to the engine at all… More to the point is the ‘stuff’ that gets the car going what the business value from HR where the new and shiny is what we choose to get focussed on with each other?
Personally, being someone who enjoys novelty and change I think previous bosses would at times be pulling their hair out trying to get me to focus on the basic and maybe much as it for me would we all be served to take a moment thinking about what makes the car actually run rather than just the things it has that we can boast about?