Tag Archives: HR Directors Business Forum

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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The one where the tail’s gone

In November I was fortunate enough to attend the CIPD annual conference in Manchester as part of the press contingent. Last week I found myself in a similar situation at the HR Director’s Business Summit in Birmingham. At the end of the CIPD I wrote a post called ‘The one where it must evolve’ sharing my perspectives about the limitations of the conference format. It was only in re-reading the post that I remembered the comment from Jon Ingham but my memory aside the latter event did have unconference sessions running as part of the second day’s programme.

To say they were well attended would be a slight exaggeration. I think it was only Jon cajoling people into coming that ensured a decent turn out and in looking around at the fellow table/topic hosts I must confess it did feel a bit like ‘The Usual Suspects’. That said what followed in the unconference session was an interesting conversation which will feature in a post of its own tomorrow. The first of the ‘what was interesting’ points was watching people’s reactions to being invited to participate in the sessions – dismissive, fearful, lack in comprehension or quick to talk about the other sessions they planned to attend. Whilst getting people discussing and sharing may seem attractive to some there are clearly others that are still enjoying being talked at.

I attended the second of two unconference sessions and the output from both then formed the starting point for a discussion session at the end of the day. Charitably it started slowly and I did actually feel sorry for Jon who was doing the facilitation equivalent of endlessly tap dancing… But slowly and surely the pace started to pick up aided in part by the appearance of a screen showing the tweets being shared (why the hashtag was not promoted anywhere in the conference remains a mystery and why this was the first appearance of the ‘back channel’ also I don’t get).

Jon’s fellow facilitators did seem a little reluctant to jump into the unstructured nature of the session but as someone sat there watching it happen and participating you could feel the energy and enthusiasm growing in the room and the second of the ‘what was interesting points’ is that it seemed to grow more when people had something to disagree with. My feeling is we got to the point where as it finished there did seem to be some disappointment that it was time to finish.

Having reflected on the unconference session and the plenary follow-up it does feel like an evolutionary step. I don’t think we’ll get everyone over the chasm quite yet, maybe need to have some time slots that are ‘unconference only’? I’m not sure but if you could capture the enthusiasm and discussion that was happening both in the unconference and plenary and bottle it I’m sure many conference organisers would be in the queue to buy.

I must doff my cap to Jon for putting himself out there in running these sessions and I’m sure like me many people have shared their thoughts with Jon which should hopefully help him and those in similar positions to continue the evolutionary process.


Jon has blogged on the same topic and you can find his post here


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The one with the chicken and the egg

So this week I am at the HR Directors Business forum being held in Birmingham. Having attended the CIPD conference in Manchester as a blogger I was able to gain attendance for the same reason.

The opening keynote was given by an American called Edward Lawler who to be honest I haven’t previously come across but have the nagging feeling I should have from other people’s reactions. He is an academic who has, in his own words, “Spent 40 years observing the HR profession”

A lot of what he shared was based on data collected as part of his research. His first major point concerned the fact that episodic change is largely a thing of the past and that anyone who longs for periods of consolidation in the new norm of constant change is likely to have an unrequited longing.

He shared data that demonstrated at in the US at least there is a perception that HR have increased their value to the organisation since the recession started and this is in both their own eyes and in the eyes of managers. As if we needed data to show that….

He then described what he thought of a HR’s three product lines namely:

1. Admin & transaction

2. Business Partner services

3. Strategy

and provided data that showed in most of the developed world with the notable exception of China most HR people believe they have some role in strategy but that in reality participation in strategy hasn’t really changed in the 7 years since he started collecting data on this topic.

He then produced a diagram that I can not replicate here but it basically showed the progression from Human Capital & Business data >> Business Strategy >> HR practice, Organisational Design & ¬†Change Management and here’s where I finally reach my point.

Should current human capital data play a role in defining strategy? Or to put it another way – should the people fit around the strategy or should you design strategy that fits your current organisation? Which should come first?

I must confess if you’d asked me that question 10 years ago I would have without hesitation ¬†answered that people should fit around strategy. Now 10 years older and with a little more scar tissue I must confess I sit somewhere between the two. With so many change initiatives failing (depending on the source between 55% and 90%) are the smart businesses those that get the best result they can from what they have rather than risk a failed change to get to an organisation ‘at the end of the rainbow’?

Part of me still feels a little bit bad typing that last paragraph. It feels like defeat to even consider not changing just because other people fail in their efforts but given the current context (UK GDP down 0.2% in Q4) is the brave thing to do caution and not trying ‘hail Mary’ activities that may appear heroic are actually desperation?


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