Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blogging the Hurricane

Here is a Mass Communication professor from LSU who is blogging the hurricane.

Others are doing it too.

I wonder if emergency planners are revising their protocols to include blogging as a communication tool?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Potential of OD

At his blog, consultant David Lorenzo's recent entry, "The Power and Value of Effective Organizational Development," describes his reactions to a recent meeting with some OD professionals. In a nutshell, he was less than impressed. As David says, there is great potential in OD to help organizations to perform and excel. Unfortunately, for several reasons, OD can be its own worst enemy.

I've also written about this before (for example in my Nine Steps to OD series, e.g. here).

OD folk are an interesting bunch. Many believe that OD is most effective when working at the top of an organization. Others prefer to work deep down in the trenches, with front line teams and supervisors.

To my way of thinking, OD is most effective when it's "everywhere at once." When it has the ear of business leaders, but is also rolling up its sleeves and working with the employees who face the customer.

The key to effective OD is to harness the rich theory and thinking of the field, but apply it practically to the real business needs of the client.
Science and Religion

Lately here in the U.S., there is quite a controversy going on regarding the attempt to introduce the "Intelligent Design" concept into the public schools, alongside the accepted theory of Darwinian evolution. Some see "ID" as a veiled version of creationism.

Can science and religion co-exist? I think so.

Both science and religion are human endeavors seeking to understand the meaning of life. Science seeks to understand how It works and how to improve It. Religion seeks to reveal Its purpose and to discern how to align one's life with that aim. To me, they are the complementary halves of a whole.

For many people these days, God is pretty much dead. For others, God is still going strong. For some, the old-fashioned notion of a robed father figure sitting on a fluffy throne is still current; for other's, it's gone, replaced by a more mystical notion of God as a creative life-force that is in and around everything, connecting and powering everything somehow.

Personally, I believe there is a connection between God and Science. Science is the way to improve Life so that we can fulfil our higher purpose here on Earth.

"The main purpose of life is to live rightly, think rightly, act rightly."
~ Gandhi

"What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God."
~ Micah

May God (whatever He or She is) give us grace to live rightly. More orthopraxy (right action), less orthodoxy (right belief).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Meddling With Primal Forces

After wanting to see this film 30 years ago, I finally watched Network, the 1976 film by director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. This film was way ahead of its time in depicting the movement toward reality-based TV programming.

There is a great speech by the head of the fictional "UBS" corporation, that folks in the OD field might enjoy. You can hear it at this link.

In part, the CEO says:

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?!

"You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West!

"There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet.

"That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!"

Very amusing and entertaining, yes. But it also makes you think about the work we do as OD practitioners, trying to help our organizational clients to change how they do things and improve performance.

It seems to me that today we do indeed live in "one holistic system of systems." The organizational systems where we do our work are all operating on a global scale. Even the smaller players that may only do business within "the 50 states" are affected by global currents such as terrorism, price of oil, outsourcing, and offshoring.

As we work to improve organizations, are we like "Mr. Beale" in Network, meddling with "the primal forces of nature?"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The People Side of Business

I had an "aha moment" this morning while reading an interview with Dick Beatty at HR.Com.

Richard W. (Dick) Beatty is Professor of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University and is the author of The Workforce Scorecard with Mark A. Huselid and Brian E. Becker. Professor Beatty teaches in the areas of applied behavioral science in human resource management and the role of the human resource function in organizations. He was one of my professors when I completed the HR Certificate program at Rutgers back in the '80's.

Here is an excerpt of what Dick had to say:

"For most organizations, about 70% of expenditures are attributed to the workforce, in terms of direct and indirect compensation. The question is whether or not we are maximizing the possibilities of our workforces and delivering the strategy of the firm as intended. Are we producing the customer advantages that we want to produce so that customers choose us, remain loyal and create wealth for the investors of the firm.

"HR has to start to think like a businessperson first. I think we have a lot of problems within the HR function in terms of thinking like a businessperson first. We have to think about competitive advantage, think about differentiation from an outsider's perspective. How do firms differentiate such that they are chosen over their competitors? What kind of a workforce do we need so that it is truly aligned and leveraged around those wealth-creating positions that are going to deliver the business strategy? The other question is, how do we differentiate within HR to make sure that we are doing a great job of the care, feeding and leveraging of that part of the workforce that truly does create the competitive advantage for the firm. One of the ways of looking at it is to say that the workforce is the deliverable of HR. HR's job is to deliver a workforce that really creates and extends the competitive advantage of the firm."

Reading these responses from Prof. Beatty, it suddenly occured to me that we, HR folk and non-HR folk, may be caught in a paradigm that needs to shift, a paradigm that is often described as "the people side of the business."

Is there really any such thing, in light of Beatty's comments?

Isn't all of business a people thing?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Overcoming Fear and Adversity

Some days the lessons that Life teaches really present themselves full force. Yesterday was one of those days.

First we attended the wedding of one of my wife's cousins who lives north of us in New York state. This poor guy has suffered his whole life from violent seizures. So much so, that we wondered if he would ever have a normal life. And there he was on the altar with his bride getting married.

Then we drove back to central New Jersey for the 50th birthday party of an old friend from church. She has been battling cancer for years, with several close calls. So far, she has beaten it. Despite the presence of death that walks with her every day, she is a joy-filled woman, living every moment to the full.

Later while driving in the car, my wife's sister told us a story about a friend of hers and her son. The friend and her son had been watching the new Summer reality series Brat Camp, a show about a group of troubled teenagers who are placed in an outdoor wilderness therapy program. It was the episode about how the teens face their fears by overcoming the adversity of a ropes course on a sheer cliff in the Rockies.

After watching this episode, the son turned to her mom and said that, if those kids on the show could overcome their fears, he too would face his.

We all have our fears to face. We all have adversity in our lives. Sometimes we wonder if we have what it takes to face these difficulties.

This morning at Sunday Mass, the Gospel reading was the story of Jesus walking on the water in the storm and Peter coming out of the boat to meet him...then sinking. Peter walked by faith, then sank from fear of the strong winds.

What helps you to overcome fear and adversity in your life?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Open Source Way

Imagine if professionals were amateurs? Think "amateur" as one who loves.

This writer has some very interesting things to say about...

- work
- managing
- organizing
- productivity
- professionalism
- unleashing talent
- and worth

As a blogger (um...I mean as a writer), I can relate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Getting More Strategic

The recent Fast Company article about HR ("Why We Hate HR" in the August 2005 issue) has sparked some lively exchanges about what HR can do to improve its image and effectiveness.

This is nothing new, however. For a long time, HR departments have been wrestling with how to get more respect and how to "get a seat at the table" with the CEO and the senior team.

One of the elements in the transformation of HR from a back-office admin function to a true business advisor is becoming "more strategic." But what does "more strategic" really mean?

There is no pat answer. You have to start reading and studying in the field of strategic thinking. One author to check out in this regard is Ram Charan.

Other thought leaders in this regard are Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad. Their work on the "core competencies" of the organization is a key concept for HR folk to ponder.

A consultant and author who has focused on HR is Dave Ulrich. He has written a number of books, his latest being The HR Value Proposition.

Also take a look at the work from Michael Lombardo, Bob Eichinger and James Heskett.

Here is an interesting breakdown of strategic thinking/planning.

The Human Resources Planning Society has identified five areas of focus for HR professionals to become more strategic.