HR leaders – Do you really care?

After conducting 100’s of critical thinking workshops and facilitating the analysis of thousands of real organizational issues during those workshops, my opinion is that HR does NOT care if the problems brought up within the workshops they sponsor are solved or that the organization is wasting hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars by not following up on what is discovered within these classes.

I have my own opinion as to why, but I want HR professionals to share their thinking.  Please answer two questions: First: “Are you interested in working on this and making a difference for your organization?”  Second,  “If not, why not, what barriers do you see to taking action?”

There are exceptions to the above which unfortunately has become the rule.  But, exceptions are few. The typical HR and HRD professional whether manager or specialist does nothing that we can detect to make sure the gems discovered in the workshops actually benefit the organization.  Perhaps this is because most training classes are not like ours, they don’t have a direct impact on current realities, they work through improving more general attitudes or capabilities whose effects are difficult to measure (e.g. Emotional IQ or Communication Skills or Seven Habits of Successful People)?

How do we know that action is not being taken on high impact problems?  After all it could be that fantastic things are happening when the participants return to their work duties and report to their manager – how would we know?  We are confident that is not happening spontaneously because when we return to conduct the next class, the new participants identify the SAME problems that were already analyzed in previous classes!  The new analysis confirms the old. And this pattern continues for months and even years within some organizations and typically on the bigger, higher impact issues, ones that require management involvement to address.  We have many workable solutions to address this problem, but first HR needs to care and be willing to collaborate with us. We can’t do it alone.  HR is typically our point of entry into the organization.  However, we often find ourselves all dressed up with no where to go.  We are not granted permission to follow-up with stakeholders or problem owners.

Would somebody PLEASE help us to understand what is going on?  It is not unusual for one single problem to be worth more than the whole training budget for the year and participants analyze 3-4 of these problems in every workshop.  Yet, our appeals to our HR contact stir nothing detectable, crickets?

Companies in any country must run better, smoother and effectively in today’s competitive world. They can’t afford to leave “money on the table” while turnover, layoffs, disappearing research funds and rapid change affect every industry.  Step one is caring enough to look into this, communicating the newly discovered root causes of issues that are delaying production or draining organizational resources.  We want an internal champion for this most worthwhile cause.  No matter who we contact with our value proposition at a prospective organization, we get directed to HR or HRD (often called the Talent Development department.) – stuck with someone who has no bottom line incentive to do something, to risk being an advocate.

“Thinking clearly” is a competitive advantage one that can show immediate results.  Let’s work together to leverage what participants are discovering, like clockwork, workshop after workshop!.  Training can have a very large, visible and powerful impact on eliminating some of the most troublesome issues your organization is facing.

Guarantee!  Our training will return every training dollar x10 or our training is free.  Now it is your turn to step up to the plate.  I am asking not to waste the discoveries individuals are making in our workshop!  Together we can do this.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a theory that helps make some sense of this phenomenon of no action!  At the article: Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double-Loop Learning and Organizational Learning (key aspects of his thinking) seems to apply directly.  Argyris also has a book: Overcoming Organizational Defenses.

In brief:  Most organizations, especially unexceptional and poor performing ones, are Model I learners.  These are characterized by defensiveness, self-fueling processes, and escalating error.  Feedback loops inhibit detection and correction of errors.  The model one learning organization itself can begin to function in ways that act against its long-term interests.

[As I understand, Model I is based upon single-loop learning where the governing Values (objectives) are used to limit action to safely protect self and others unilaterally against change, to control the environment and the task unilaterally.  This so the organization can carry on its present policies and procedures.  Learning that threatens any of this is kept in individual memory and not organizational memory.]

Double-Loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that modify an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives (culture?).  Model II learning organizations use double-loop learning.

[It appears to me that the leaders of such organizations have Theories-In-Use updated to be compatible with the evolving current reality as revealed by the experience of people solving problem, defining root causes, taking corrective actions and observing consequences.  Organizational memory is complete and accurate as reflected in the organization’s policies and procedures.]

I hope this helps!