A conversation overheard the other day between an HR Business Partner and a Teamleader…
Way too often the Human Resources function is in charge of administrating problems that come with organisational growth or are intrinsic to command & control management structures. Size. Hierarchies. Apathy. Ignorance. So, What should we do? We should stop treating the symptoms and focus on the causes.
Let’s rewind to the lesson of successful startups. No entrepreneuer ever wanted shared services. An entrepreneuer wants a healthy culture of innovation. An evolutionary one that sustains the successful products and services and a revolutionary one, that engages in inventing the future. A culture that can constantly reinvent itself, while staying alive through that rejuvenation process.
It’s therefore time HR approached its own existence in the way the organisation shoud be run holistically. HR’s business is not return on investment. HR is about people and it should live up to its responsibility to shape, design and enable cultures of innovation, in a new balanced spirit of enterprise between people and profit.
How would we talk, walk, act and organize if we approached organisation as a group of people who should be enabled to run their own business with all the necessary skills directly in the value-creation chain, closest to the customer. Not with cental HR. Not even with decentralized HR, but with a complete distribution of HR skills into small, self-organizing teams.
Adding value comes by looking outside the company as much as inside. The RH-Way is all about understanding that the network of talent, which is your organisation, in itself is a social medium. This group constitutes the organisation, these people create structures, lead and innovate. There is no such thing as ‘the organisation’ – Talent and therefore Resourceful Humans are everything. By removing all barrierers and folding the customer community into your internal community, Resourceful Humans create a talent-centric setup. Either you create or you sell, nothing should stand between people and their customers.
Creating this environment is the Job of the RH enabling Change Force!
RH is about HR being and enabling the Solution
Know this joke?
‘Doctor, when I bend my arm backwards like this…it hurts like hell!’
‘Stop bending your arm like that then, you moron.’
The solution to organisational issues related to size, hierachies, apathy and ignorance is not HR 3.0. It’s not incremental change. It is not more of the same. It is NOT Enterprise 2.0. The answer is a reboot of how we think about organisations, our business ethics and how we fundamentally design and run the enterprise. The answer for existing organisations is a transformational framework from Human Resources, via a Hybrid, to a pure Resourceful Humans working ecology.
The Resourceful Humans concept enables an evolution from central command & control power structures, via decentralized design, to an organic distributed federation of self-organising teams. Functions such as HR, Marketing and Finance become competencies in service of fast-acting teams. Think of it as the difference between a Starfish and a Spider. A spider has a centralized body with legs. Cut off the head, it dies. A starfish is a distributed organism, major organis are replicated throughout each arm. Cut it in half and you get two starfish.
The core concepts of Resourceful Humans are:
1. Organisational Democracy of the Willing and Able
2. Free Flow of Information
3. Fair Gain Sharing
This core concept translates into the following entrepreneurial terms:
1. I possess the choice to pursue what I love doing and attach myself to like-minded, competent people.
2. I have the neccessary information to make good decisions.
3. I will fairly benefit from the measure of my efforts.
Holistically, it means teams are free to gravitate towards topics closest to their intrinsic motivation, enabled by democratic decision making and tools, informed by transparent information, networked through self-organized contracting based on mutual commitments, and fueled by the prospect of entrepreneurial gain-sharing, will have the greatest possible business impact.
By implementing such a democractic management framework, the RH-Way allows the sustainable co-existence of evolutionary and revolutionary innovation. The former required to strive for process excellence in existing products and services, the latter giving te space for game-changing ideas.
The Transformation Design is split into 4 distinct phases:
0. Engage – Assessing Organisational Readiness
1. Revolution – Piloting the RH-Way as a new Spirit of Enterprise
2. Baseline – Deriving an (in)credible Plan for Scaling the RH-Way in a customized Hybrid Fashion
3. Evolution – Embedding a new framework to sustain the customized RH-Way
Core component of the RH-Way’s four phases is the Dream-Adapt-Evolve loop. The first step is to seize the opportunity that provides a meaningful contribution, then move into rapid prototyping and embed short-spaced sprint cycles for fast-reviews and design iterations. Through the social checkpoint of free association, ideas will stick through more talent attacahing themselves to the idea and therefore grow or remain unconvincing in the internal talent market, whither and die.
The RH-Way also utilize an appreciative method called the “3Ys” – asking simple questions to probe the product at every point of development. It acts as preventive measure to slip into ‘doing things right’, instead of ‘doing the right thing’. When the Y-Questions can be answered simply and clearly, the teams can establish clear networks of contracts between themselves and will buy into each others Visions – driving the business forward through and ecology of shared belief.
As a product matures, talent has the choice to remain with the maturing business and adopt evolutionary innovation, or undertake the entrepreneurial risk of pitching/attaching to a new revolutionary idea in the business ecology.
The HR Function splits three ways:
1. A classic adminsitrative function to be out-sourced
2. A temporary RH Change Force. Facilitators, Mediators, Keepers of positive Momentum towards RH and Guardians of the organisational peace.
3. HR becomes not only agent of the Starfish ecology but literally becomes the ecology. As more teams move past Baseline, HR distributes its competencies directly where they are needed – in the value-chains of the temporary teams. Human Resources literally becomes Resourceful Humans.
The RH-Way reboots an Organization’s entrepreneurial spirit. In the words of HP Founder Dave Packard, ‘The Purpose of a Company is NOT to make money! It makes money in order to do what it is really all about, and in our case that’s to make a meaningful contribution to the people who work here and the communities we operate in.’
Resourceful Humans pre-empts the issues of size, hierarchies, apathy and ignorance by creating a a peer-creation culture. It enable the mindset and tools for a healthy self-sustaining culture of Innovation. Regardless of hierarchy, everyone will have the same opportunity to approach work in the most innovative, productive and efficient manner, based on networks of self-organized contracts with shared goals. Purposeful accomplices who can design their own work environment to create the best possible product of service, will not employ normal management tools and techniques.
What does an environment of Resourceful Humans look like?
No Hierarchies but Circles
Each teams resembles a circle: independent and autonomous. Once you join, you’re an equal. Its then up to you to contribute to the best of your ability in service of the shared idea.
No Mission Statement but Ideology
Ideology is the glue that holds distributed organizations together. It consists of authentic, often unarticulated, belief in the purpose of the team and organization’s benefit to the community. Not Central Strategy, but fluid, mutating Network. Resourceful Humans do not perceived organizations as confining constructs, but as enabling platforms – semi-permeable membranes. The Resourceful Humans Concept lets them associate freely to the enterprise in whatever form they chose, as long as they are accepted by the receiving team.
No Leaders but Catalysts
Leaders of Resourceful Humans-centric organizations are vastly different from traditional executives. A catalyst is any element that initiates a reaction without fusing into that reaction. In open organizations, a catalyst is the person who initiates a circle and then fades away into the background. They generated ideas and then allow the circle to follow through. They get a decentralized organization going and then cede control to the members. Letting go of the leadership role, the catalyst transfers ownership and responsibility to the circle. The catalyst is an inspirational figure who spurs others to action. Circles don’t form on their own. A catalyst develops an idea, shares it with others, and leads by example.
No Project Managers, but Champions
A champion is relentless implementer, promoting a new idea. Catalysts are charismatic, but champions take it to the next level. Catalysts inspire and naturally connect people, but there’s nothing subtle about the champion. He is a natural people person, salesman and builder. He translates vision into reality.
A practical exampe?
People in a company living the RH-Way asked to design a radical new bonus system, as none of the traditional models seemed to be fair to them. They created an online platform, where each employee could log onto. Depending on their seniority, each employee had a number of stars at his disposal to reward fellow employees with online on a quarterly basis. They could award stars to whomever and add commentaries as to why they awarded them. The Revenue and Profit statements of the company were available online, and at the end of the year, based on the EBIT, each star transparently received a monetary value. The employees created their own social feedback and bonus distribution platform. No more arguing with managers about unfair apraisals. No more bell-curves. No more intransparent and complex bonus calculations and administration by HR. Resourceful Humans became the solution.
“HR is too important to be left to the HR Department!” – Dave Packard, CEO of Hewlett Packard
To successfully migrate to a Resourceful Humans Ecology, the Leadership of an organisation needs to:
- Share the same humanistic values and basic trust in the good of people
- Be willing to ‘tolerate’ and support an organisational learning curve as ‘employees’ become ‘co-entrepreneurs’
- Suspend common cause & effect thinking, tempting into taking control in tight spots
- Be ready to have unable & unwiling people leave the organisation, short-term
- Say good-bye to superstars (Real Madrid) and embrace the power of teams (FC Barcelona)
- Having to navigate a legal grey zone as democratic management techniques clash with antique labour-laws
The Resourceful Humans Framework goes through three distinct phases:
1. Revolution (of Mindset to make everyone’s motivations and DNA transparent)
2. Baseline (for assessing RH Readiness and outlining an (in)credible Plan)
3. Evolution (for Scaling the RH-Way)
Through a modular mix of Organisational and Individual Business Canvas exercises, mixed with Design Thinking, Appreciative Inquiry and Theory of Constraints the Framework moves Teams forward at their individual abiliites.
HR acts in three ways as a Change Force:
1. Outsourcing the Classic Adminstrative Function
2. Talking the Talk – Enabling the Transformation of all Units, from within
3. Walking the Talk – Being the Change and acting as a distributing Business Unit itself in pursuit of its redundancy
What can disrupt a successful HR2RH migration?
Organizations, or rather top leadership layer, which are unable or unwilling to go down the road of a more democratic design, run the risk of isolating themselves in the talent and consumer market. This scales as consumers choose brands they can and want to identify with. Unethical value creation chains and working conditions are no longer tolerated. Isolation can be brought about by various factors. Eg. organisations…
- whose leaders and employees have been too conditioned in a Command & Control mindset
- which are in dire financial straights or are threatend by insolvency
- where power struggles and politics are part of the culture
- with a high turnover in leadership positions
- in which paternatlistic leades reign for life
- which have a monopoly or clear dominance over their market
- which are run centralistic, tdie zentralistisch, theocratic or authoritarian
- which have a bad information-infrastructure and therefore lack a culture of communication
- in which women and minorities aren’t treated and represented equally
- where there are wide rifts and divergences in the compensation & benfits structure
This examplary list shows that that the line between HR and RH can be fluid. Organisation can “tilt” one way or another. The role of the temporary RH change force is to positively influence the momentum of change. As many pilot-teams and projects as possible need to make the successful migration past the baseline’s “point of no return”. Equally important, the classic HR Adminstration needs to be swifty and successfully out-sourced. HR Admin is a hygiene factor that forms the license for the change force to keep operating. Disruption in administrative service delivery has negative effects on the momentum of change towards the RH-Zone.
The Change Force needs to focus on the Baseline as RH Pilot Teams often suffer from an oppressive climate. The new way of working may cause jealousy, exclusion and hostility from teams still in the HR Zone. The RH Change Force needs to negotiate and mediate the temporary rifts, as well as budding fears through changing power-structures in times of deep change.
Jiu-jitsued the operating mantra from ‘RH versus HR, to Resourceful Humans for a better way to work.”
The Finance Crisis showed that the real challenges to the global economy is triggered by purely shareholder-value driven behaviour that begets ego-centric, un-ethical entrepreneurial behaviour. This was mostly examplified by corporations and individuals occupying the HR Zone of centralistic leadership patterns. Resourceful Humans need to demonstrate the sustainable value of the RH-Way via clearly measurable results to reach even these organisations.
Subsequently the HR2RH Framework needs to incorporate the following strategic pointers:
1. Strengthening of the Baseline Immune System through democratic structures (eg. voting on leadership positions)
2. Enabling of Pilot-Participants to build procedural firewalls against a resurgence of centralistic management
3. Iterative Darwinism – successfull migration of many small pilots across the Baseline threshold to gain momentum
The threats for the RH-Way are inherent in the Baseline. If we listed failed RH experiments, where RH or similarly liberal management models were tried, we’d see a clear lack of successful pilots moving past Baseline. They experience a lack of positive Change Momentum at the ‘Stall Point’. This leads to reactionary measures and a fallback into old patterns. At the opposite end of the spectrum, teams which make it to the “Point of no Return”, cannot be re-integrated into an HR Zone. They can act as change agents, but will not tolerate a traditional management environment anylonger. A simple rule for Resourceful Humans is, ‘the less timley success an organisation experiences with Resourceful Humans, the higher the liklihood it reverts back to central intervention of the management layer.’
(RH)ules of Engagement
The HR and RH Zone have different rules of engagement. While the HR Zone is clearly rules by a culture of fear (eg. If you don’t perform, you won’t participate in our gain-sharing, if you don’t perform you run the risk of expulsion), RH shifts to putting in place all possible measures to enable the maximum potential, self-confidence and autonomy of all organizational contributors. As Dan Pink explained, the HR Zone’s measures of performance bonuses and frameworks are counter-productive wherever even rudimentary cognitive skills are involved in value creation. Instead, the holistic enabling of autonomy, mastery and purpose lead to great results.
In this the role of the RH Change Force is to promote and share stories about positive RH-Zone experiences to create a Climate of Possibility. This climate instills participation, shared responsibility to maintain the positive momentum. It creates the self-confidence in the contributors to engage in open, critical dialogue without fear of blame or repercussions.
The RH Change Force needs to enable this positive momentum to manifest the democ(RH)atic vision of organisations powered by Resourceful Humans – and ultimately step away as a Human Resources Function completely to strengthen the baseline immune system.
In the Words of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
Mini- RH Readiness Check
Assemble your best team (max 15 people, minimum 10), give each member 5 Pretzels (tell them not to eat them) and ask them the following ToDos (Don’t reveal more than one ToDo at a time!):
1. In teams of 3-5 people show them the below RH-Question Cycle of Dream, Adapt, Evolve.
2. For the Dream - ”Which Zone are you in?”, print-out the below “HR Zone to RH Zone?” table and let the teams assess the status quo of your organisation on its basis. Let the teams present their views back to the rest of the group.
HR Zone to RH Zone Table
3. For Adapt - Show them the following ‘Field Manual of a successful RH Pilot Team. Ask them to reflect on it. What could an RH Pilot in your organisation look like? Framing question: “If you could design your work and work environment so you could improve your business, not incremental but exponentially, what would you change? (Give them one hour to walk about, get inspired, talk, anything really, but to come back and craft an actual, tangible prototype by any means available to them other than PowerPoint, Keynote, etc…the point s actual crafting together) Give them 5 minutes to present it to each other.”
RH Field Manual
4. For Evolve - Let them sit down and answer the following questions:
a) One a scale from 1-5, where 5 is the most valueable and 1 is crap, how valueable did you find this exercise?
Let them make one round, then follow-up with:
b) One the same scale, what do you think you contributed to making this a valuable exercise?
c) Now ask them to distribute their Pretzels to the people in the team they felt made the exercise most valuable. Let them do it with everybody else watching their distribution and let them explain why they awarded them.
d) What would need to change next time to achieve a 5 in both a) and b)
Now they have ‘experienced’ two solutions from an RH Evolution environment. mo(RH)ale – a self-organised team health survey and sta(RH)s, a social Bonus model. Both solutions are free of central HR adminstration and command & control management, intrinsically safeguarding the Baseline from slipping back into an HR Zone through democratic organisational and procedural design. The final parting question for the team should be:
e) What RH ideas could your team come up with that it could put into practise tomorrow morning?
Voila, your very own two hours “Resourceful Humans Readiness Check”.
The RH Canvas for 1:1s
In case you want to try an even shorter, practical approach in a 1:1 situation – use the RH Canvas (below).
It is designed to be used in a dialog situation. The manager and her team-member work their ways from left (team-member) and right (manager) towards the middle together. Each asking one another probing questions about the purpose of their mutual endeavour. Arriving at the center, they hopefully found common ground for mutual maximizing of potential for the talent and the enterprise. Then they can contract on specific actions to enable that potential.
Contact us for your free Consulting Session!