This week I’m at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. My experience of the first day, yesterday, was of two different sides of HR. The day kicked off with an introduction from Peter Cheese, the new CEO of the CIPD. His words were music to my ears. I really liked his clarity when describing the purpose of HR and the CIPD as being about…
Championing better work and working lives, through better people management and people development, in order to bring more value for organisations and society.
Absolutely. And also I am really pleased that Peter wants the CIPD to be more relevant to SMEs. I’d love to hear from more SME leaders when I’m at a conference like this. My personal experience is that there is some really exciting and interesting people management that goes on in SMEs. (I work for one).
Peter was followed by Gary Hamel, who did that clever keynote speaker’s trick of summarising his current book in one hour flat. I really like hearing from people who challenge my thinking and assumptions, and Gary does a great job of this. E.g.
Why do we have to structure organisations hierarchically? How should we manage companies in order to be fit for the future? How can we overcome the problem of intellectual group think? How can we connect much more with each other and be more human inside our companies?
Gary asked whether our own internal communications typically used words like ‘joy‘, ‘beauty‘ ‘love‘ ‘truth‘ or whether are intranets/emails/talks are peppered with ‘strategy‘ ‘pipeline‘ ‘roadmap‘ and all the rest. I have been involved recently with articulating a set of 5 company values, and we’ve been brave enough to use some of the former words – it’s interesting to see how phrases like ‘take joy in making people and places become better than you found them‘ affect people. (And it was one of our employees who suggested the ‘take joy‘ words, at a time when we were struggling to find the right phrase).
So I guess Gary was preaching to the converted. Here’s a Gary Hamel video which contains the gist of his views.
Later on I went to a session about organisational development/change/effectiveness. It wasn’t the same one as Neil Morrison wrote about. But it could have been. It was a case study by a major organisation who had rolled out an extensive streamlining/make the boat go faster change programme. Here is the type of language that was used:
- We played back the model to the senior leaders
- It [the change] became easier to land
- We did a full team test and challenge
- We worked the business issues
- We ran the diagnostics
- We took out cost
- ….and so on, you get the drift
[All the above were accompanied by dense diagrams and spreadsheets, squeezed so small onto the screen that they were unreadable]
I know it is important to get the right structures in place and make sure that people know what they are doing. But here’s the thing, HR is about people. ‘We took out cost‘ – that’s actually about taking out people’s jobs. That’s normal in business, but I’d like to hear more honest language. I don’t know if I’m explaining myself properly, but I’d so much rather work for an organisation which is trying to achieve Peter Cheese’s purpose, and is trying to be truly innovative and imaginative as per Gary Hamel’s vision, than one that is all about transaction and processes. The latter leaves me cold. (And it leaves me even more cold when the speaker references Gary Hamel. His approach and this approach were coming from opposite ends of the universe).
Fortunately, my day ended on a high note as I attended the session on Values Based Leadership, in which Andy Rubin, CEO of Pentland Brands, gave a wonderful talk about the work he’s done to bring about more trust and engagement. As did Iain Rawlinson, Exec Chairman of Monarch. These are the kind of leaders who inspire people and know that it is important that the company stands for something, and has some principles about the way it goes about pursuing profit. This post is long enough as it is but I’ll write some more another time about Andy and Iain’s talk. But I do think that it is marvellous to have CEOs on the stage at this event. More please!
Finally, my day was capped by being given a T shirt by the one and only Doug Shaw, on the front his Doug’s marvellous phrase: ‘Proceed until Apprehended’.