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Org.Schema: Do not hire!

In the article “Org.Schema: Creating Redundancies“, I argue how for every position, you need to have a succession plan. You need to prepare the second employee, through job rotation, and I have conveyed that message through a case study.

Currently, I am in a job profile which also includes taking care of physical assets alongside helping my organization appreciate its human capital. The physical assets side of my profile has helped me appreciate some simple truths which may well be applied even in the case of human capital:

Do not invest in assets which you cannot possibly maintain. 

There is this tendency in large organisations to invest in large physical assets, larger even relative to their requirement. The asset does not receive the attention it deserves, and is left to decay with zero maintenance. Soon enough, it becomes a liability.

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Gif Credit: media.giphy.com

Because it is their in the books, and although the organisation may not be using it, still the depreciation costs are helping it “save” some taxes, although it isn’t really saving. So you need someone to just keep a track of the same, maybe invest in some security for ensuring that the asset is not misused in any way – BIG COSTS.

In the case of human capital: Do not hire, if you cannot assure the welfare of the employees. If you cannot ensure that they are put into proper projects or work that fit in with their career aspirations.  If you cannot provide good learning and development opportunities. If you cannot provide safety and security to the families of your employees.

Do not hire. Because in the long run, not only would those improper hires suffer along with their families, but also the organisation which may well be the biggest loser.

Cut off the extra fat, if you cannot possibly burn it. 

Having worked in two Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), I have understood that one of the biggest strengths of the PSUs is the amount of land they have under their possession. But they do not always require that amount of land! And they spend enormous amounts of money on litigation, security and boundary walls to protect that. Wouldn’t it better to sell those extra land, and be asset-light when you cannot possibly put the extra land for the creation of organisation-value?

On the human capital side: Use your human capital for value-creation, and if you cannot, actively train & develop them or help them get more rewarding careers in another organisation. Your organisation would benefit much more than those employees. The employees would thank the organisation for not killing their careers.

But first, DO NOT hire if you cannot buy the right assets at the right time for the right amount at the right cost. 

You would not have to face the two problems listed before, if you just buy the right assets at the right time for the right amount at the right cost. Because of the right amount, the assets would be maintained. And no need for shedding off the extra assets, because you would again have the right assets for the right amount, right? (Too many rights, the lefts would mind!)

On the human capital side: Hire right. Hire trainable employees, who can add value not only in the present but also in the future. In this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) business environment, you do not need the best for the present, but best for both the present and the future. Having the skills to learn both easy and fast (the motto of this blog), and having the right attitude to keep on learning always. 

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Comic Courtesy: dilbert.com

What other variables do you think affect power relations? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Amartya Dey, India

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Organization Meter: Policy & SOP

Policy is formalized practice.

Your organization has been doing something for so long that it becomes part of its identity. It formalizes it by taking approval of the management. Now, not one can go against a formalized practice. While one may not be penalized always if one dithers, there is no incentive to.

Policy is not just formalized practice. 

Policies are powerful tools to bring about change in an organization, to even go against a formalized practice. In these cases, going against the policy can result in penal actions.

The Objectives of Policy

It is to make the operations smoother, the delivery smarter. It is to eliminate ambiguity as much as possible and help decision-makers take decisions in a faster and more informed way. It is to make knowledge transfer simple and succession planning seamless.

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The Requirement of SOP

SOP, for the uninitiated, refers to Standard Operating Procedures. If your organization has wonderful policies, but yet the talent retention is not great, your employees complain against the bureaucratic nature of your organization, your delivery men are frustrated and power circles have evolved within your organizations, it is because your organization does not have enough SOPs.

Use this thumb rule:

For a great organization, Number of SOPs : Number of Policies >> 1. 

Much greater than 1 would reflect that the policy makers are aware of the ground realities and have painstakingly developed and curated their SOPs and/or, the policy makers constantly have an ear to the shop floor and listen to the difficulties faced by the customers (internal or external) as also the delivery men.

The Bottom Line: Writing and adopting policies are not enough. You need evolving SOPs to back them up. Then you might just be able to attain the objectives of policy-making. 

Amartya Dey, India

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The Abuse of the 360° Feedback System

The 360º Feedback system is hailed as one of the more progressive feedback systems where employees get feedback from not only direct supervisors from their departments but also, in many cases, outside stakeholders. Juniors, peers and seniors – anyone who has worked with you – can give you feedback. This feedback can not only help you become a better professional but also helps companies review their employees in a holistic way.

 But it is a system after all!

The 360º Feedback system has two important pillars on which it stands:

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Anonymity

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Confidentiality means that I would not know who is reviewing me. You would not know who is providing feedback to you. But can the veil of confidentiality be burnt and stamped upon?

Anonymity is closely related to confidentiality. Anonymity ensures that the one providing feedback can do so without any fear or discomfort. So that they can tick and choose whatever they think is fair. But can someone bypass the veil and know who was standing right behind it?

The Value of Stress Testing

In the banking industry, stress testing of assets and portfolios are done using computer simulation models to determine how the assets and portfolios would fare in times of financial crisis such as the one we saw in 2008. Similarly, all systems and processes need to stress-tested.

Stress-testing is important for HR processes and systems because loopholes can be exploited and need to be plugged in in-time so that it does not affect the overall health of the organization. Checking for clues and reporting them:

  • Does S employee know that T is going to review him?
  • T is S’s subordinate. Is she being afforded the opportunity to review her supervisor in a fair manner?
  • Has a nexus started where P agrees to scratch the back of R, and R agrees to reciprocate?

The Caveat of Stress Testing

Although stress testing can help improve our systems and processes, it should not be a cause of harassment for the employees. While deviant behavior needs to be recorded and reported, all the actions of employees should not be look at with suspicion. Not everyone is trying to fool the 360º Feedback system.

We need to ensure that employees are ready to both provide and accept a true and fair feedback. While most organizations use the 360º Feedback to review employees, the end goal of reviewing also is to help the employees be better professionals so that the organization may benefit and not just to judge and rank them.

How can the 360º Feedback be implemented better?

First, it should be communicated to employees that the feedback is for their own good. So that they can perform better, they can have better work-life balance and get the opportunity to lead the organization.

Secondly, 360º Feedback should not be implemented at one go. It should be random and through out the year. Feedback weeks can lead to enormous loss of man-hours just because so many employees make it a big deal. It is important but not more important than the task at hand.

Thirdly, the feedback touch-points should not be too many. More than 20 and you lose the one giving a feedback. You do not want to bore them.

Fourthly, make it intelligible. It is not for testing their command over the English language. Short, simple and casual.

Fifthly, casual. Yes, casual. Make it sound too formal and too important, you give an incentive to cheat, to try find the loopholes. Again, it is important no doubt. But the bottom-line more so!

Sixthly, if anyone gives 5 out 5 or 0 out 5, make them use an event to describe why they are giving that rating. This would stop the abuse and not just make it too “casual”. This is also why you should not forget the third point mentioned here: not making the feedback paper too long. Too long, and you cannot do this sixth!

The Summary!

To end, review and feedback is important. But not more important than organization performance. These should help the organization be better. And for them to help the organization perform better, transparency, confidentiality, anonymity and good survey procedures are a must!

Hope this article helps. Share your ideas!

Author: Amartya Dey, India

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Breaking Organizational Silos (Part II)

In “Breaking Organizational Silos (Part I)“, silos were defined as also suggestions were provided as to how we might break the silos which may emerge in an active manner as well as in a passive manner. In this article, we would look at more such ideas which may be implemented to break the silo mentality – an impediment to exploiting the synergy that should emerge within and between departments of an organization.

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The Caveat First!

All the suggestions may not be implementable. Some might be a fit to X organization’s culture while some might solve the puzzle in Y. 5 suggestions were provided in the previous article so we would start here from:

Suggestion 6: Short Term Project Teams

Constant improvement has become the norm. But employees may get lethargic working in the same environment, same department. They might be great at providing solutions to problems pertaining to their department but what about problems that entail the entire organization?

To solve such problems, project teams can be organized for a limited period of time (3 months to 1 year) where the teams would be responsible for solving one recurring organizational problem. I like to call these HIST – High Impact, Short Term – Projects. These projects would not only enrich the jobs of the employees concerned, but would also benefit the organization as it would also save on some consultancy fees.

This would also help identify and nurture the leaders of morrow as they would learn about the other departments and network with them.

Suggestion 7: Osmosis Weeks

On a bigger and more general scale, Osmosis weeks can be organized where employee from B department would work for a week in C department while that of C would work in the D department. This would help them appreciate the jobs of their counterparts while also developing “Systems Thinking”.

“Systems thinking is a management discipline that concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the components that comprise the entirety of that defined system.”

www.systemicleadershipinstitute.org

Again, if you want to develop well-rounded leaders, you might like to try this approach!

Suggestion 8: Brain-Shoeing Sessions

Conduct brainstorming sessions among the Finance department professionals, and ask them how differently would they have operated if they were in the HR department. Likewise, let HR people brainstorm on system or process improvements concerning the Finance department or maybe even the Production department.

These sessions would give you valuable insight about how your organization is actually operating. It can help you take preventive actions and actually thaw the chill!

Suggestion 9: Build exceptional generalists

In this world where expertise charges a premium, it might sound counter-intuitive but it is a sane strategy to train and build total leaders – the generalists. They can act as the glue that holds the ship, switching between departments as and when requirement comes up.

Suggestion 10: Take a world view

While all the 9 suggestions suggested previously may be put in good use, it is important that organizations around the world start taking a world view. And by organizations I refer to the present leadership. Focusing on profits isn’t enough any more. Focusing just on shareholder value may hurt your organization in the long run. Customers are important, no doubt but so are your contractors and so is the community within which your plant operates.

None of the suggestions would work if today’s leaders do not take a world view. None of them.

To Summarize!

Much can be done to break the silo mentality but commitment from the top must be evident for the steps to be effective. “Systems Thinking” must be encouraged so that we have well-rounded leaders and not just power-brokers.

Picture Credit: keenlearner.wordpress.com

Author: Amartya Dey, India