Reinventing HR – as a centre of excellence for releasing the brakes on organisational performance

Reinventing HR offers the opportunity to add much greater strategic value. HR should become a centre of excellence for releasing the brakes on organisational performance.

In the mid-2000’s I was Program Director for two Director-level peer-learning groups for members from major international firms. One was for HR Directors whilst the other focused on People-Centred Strategy for paired senior ‘learning partner’ colleagues – one from business and one from HR.

Engaging with senior HR Directors changed my outlook on HR’s ability to add strategic value.  Previously my views on HR had been formed over 20 years helping client organisations to stop driving with the brakes on. My main clients up to then had been senior businesses-focused leaders, with HR mostly conspicuous by their absence from ‘the top table’.

That might seem odd, because releasing the brakes on organisational performance is all about changing behaviours, attitudes and mindsets. But senior business-focused leaders typically saw HR as a cost centre, rather than a source of strategic value. There were some exceptions, such as organisations that relied heavily on science, technology and engineering driven innovation. But by and large HR was seen as a compliance function and ‘hardly relevant’ to major performance improvement.

Reinventing HR – lessons from Quality Assurance

Reinventing HR - moving from inspection to assurance

Western firms learned some hard lessons from Japanese competitors during the ‘Quality’ revolution of the 1980’s.

Up to this point, ‘Made in Japan’ had been synonymous with shoddy plastic products. But now Japanese firms were killing major Western industry giants in their own markets. Established Western leaders in electronics, automotive and consumer durables all lost out to Japanese invaders.

Japanese industry was transformed by Total Quality Management (TQM) – and its Western ‘gurus’ who’d been largely ignored back home.

Embracing TQM principles enabled and empowered the people who were actually producing products and delivering services to implement continuous improvements.

Up to this point, quality improvement had traditionally emphasised inspection. Inspectors at the end of the value-adding processes (hopefully) caught problems before they reached customers. The inspection function had little emphasis on preventing  similar problems from occurring again.

Reinventing HR - assuring performance by eliminating braking friction

By contrast, modern Quality Assurance (QA) emphasises the responsibility of everyone building quality into their value-adding actions and interactions, eliminating the need for a separate inspection function. This shift from focusing on ‘inspection’ to focusing on ‘assurance’ involved a major shift in culture.

Reinventing HR involves a similar revolution. In many organisations, HR operates more like ‘inspection’ than ‘assurance’:

  • monitoring people performance;
  • moving people when they don’t fit;
  • mopping up when mistakes occur.

Reinventing HR – excellence in finding and escaping the traps causing braking friction

Reinventing HR - adding strategic value by eliminating braking friction

The world in which our organisations operate has become intensely competitive.

To survive and thrive, organisations must increasingly identify and remove the causes of braking friction.

Reinventing HR to become a centre of excellence for releasing the brakes on organisational performance will enable it to make the much greater strategic contribution it has sought for many years.

If not in HR, where will you develop the skills and traits required to release the brakes so your organisation can get moving, get ahead and stay ahead of the game?

[To get FREE access to my senior executive’s 20-minute video guide to eliminating braking friction just click here.]
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