Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

eerik-lundmark's picture

Invite everyone to evaluate the strategy

By Eerik Lundmark on June 8, 2022

Open feedback, as Michele Zanini presented in his hack on 360 feedback, is essential for an adaptable organisation. I would like to suggest a further move into the core of strategic adaptability by inviting all employees to evaluate the strategy as such.

We actually did this some years ago in a Finnish company by asking all employees to evaluate the credibility of

  • the management team
  • the plan (from industry foresight down to individual compensation)
  • the implementation of the plan

All employees, both white and blue collars, had their say, and the results were discussed through with the employees in their teams.

The results of the first round were horrible, but over time the results started to improve, leading to a high commitment and – at least how I saw it – to a more adaptable organisation.

We repeated the survey and the ensuing dialogue roughly once a year, and as you would expect, the improvement started at the management team credibility, moved to the plan and finally to the implementation.

I think the clue was not really the survey as such, but the fact that the management had the nerve to be evaluated by the employees, and that the management ensured that the dialogue was handled properly. People were involved and empowered, and they felt it.

Inviting people to evaluate the strategy does not have to an enterprise wide program in the sense of cumulating the results into corporate summaries. The main thing is to activate the dialogue all over the place.

HR process being hacked:Performance Management

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I've actually used this to very good results. Works well in small firms where there is an expectation of engagement.
However, in US publicly traded firms, there are valid reasons why these discussions are closed.
It would be interesting to spell out a process for this type of corp.
What role would HR play, if any? In my engagements, the process has little to do with HR function.

eerik-lundmark's picture

Deanna, you're right, there are more considerations in publicly traded firms. And as you say, a process suitable for them would be a great asset.

I think HR in this case would be the advisor to line management, in case HR is development oriented. Creating a strategy survey is not a simple task, and HR ioften possesses the best competencies in developing and running internal surveys.

In the US, HR would not have the credibility to advise on strategy or produce the survey. This is a broad overgeneralization; however, see the top hack: "Eliminate HR." The function has trouble even producing its own metrics-- this is typically outsourced to a consulting firm. Surveys are outsourced to specialists like Kenexa.
On my projects, our team (also a consulting firm of PhDs) first conducted focus groups in the plant locations here and abroad; concepts were then rolled up into themes and the survey was developed around the hot themes.
What is your experience?

eerik-lundmark's picture

I see your point. It's another reason to hack HR. The same goes for many other support functions. Developing from gatekeepers and administrators to business partners is a long process. This goes for ICT and communications likewise.

Actually I was a bit puzzled when I read "Eliminate HR". Using external consultants in such a critical area as HR development is a must sometimes, but I would rather outsource payroll as a transactional routine and keep HR development in-house. And I have actually seen encouraging examples of this development in Europe. I'm not so familiar with U.S. based companies, though.

michele-zanini_4's picture

Great mini-hack, Eerik! Curious to hear in what way were the results of the first round of discussions "horrible?" Was it that people we holding back feedback (and therefore that there was no effective dialogue) or that the feeback was negative and torrential? In either case, how did management respond and adjust the process?



PS: You might want to read this "open strategy development" case from Red Hat on the MIX:http://www.managementexchange.com/story/democratizing-corporate-strategy...

eerik-lundmark's picture

Thank you, Michele, for the comments and for the tip on Red Hat case, which resembles the case I presented.

The first feedback in my case was utterly critical, which obviously is better than not getting solid feedback to start with. Unfortunately all metrics were on red, so we decided to start with the top layers like industry foresight, mission, values and vision and work our way down to processes, resources, team play and individual contribution.

A bit like in Red Hat, we set up a new structure for the renewal. The lead was given to a transformation team, whose responsibility was to outline the path and to develop initiatives for a revised management system. We actually called the system our operation model, because we wanted to avoid the word “management”. After all, it was meant for all.

Common for all members of the transformation team was that they all worked with customers, although in different roles. On the other hand there was also a lot of diversity in career histories and thinking patterns. This gave us a good basis to create the strategy outside in. Discussing the items, whether a vision or any other, thoroughly in the organisation boosted the awareness, but it also gave us valuable insight for the development and made the strategy transparent and easy to understand for all.