Tuesday, 6 January 2015

HR: Helping to Reveal the Elephant

Two stories. One point
Story One (Completely True)
A few years ago I was speaking with the Engineering Director of a very large aerospace and defence organisation (one that makes Big And Expensive stuff. (Did you see what I did there?)) about a new-fangled HR initiative that was to be rolled out across the entire business. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what the initiative was, but chances are it involved some form-filling and a significant amount of time commitment from already over-burdened managers.
“I’ve a question for you, Graham,” he said. “Tell me, why can’t we get one of our Big And Expensive products off the production line in under 24 hours?”
“Poor inventory management?” I said. “Or a failure in component delivery from our suppliers? Inadequate factory layout? Lack of 24-hour shift patterns?”
“No,” he responded. “There’s just one reason. The Laws of Physics. That’s the only factor that makes it a physical impossibility. So our job – and yours, Graham – is to eliminate everything else other than the Laws of Physics that stops us getting our products out of the factory and onto the runway (Whoops! Bit of a clue there!) in the shortest time physically possible. So let me ask you if you think that this HR initiative will help or hinder us in shaving time of the development and production process.”
Stunned silence
Story Two (Possibly True)
On the pavement of a Burmese street sat a man with a rough block of teak in from of him, and a chisel in his hands, watched over by a European tourist. Slowly, bit by bit, the craftsman chipped away at the wood, and slowly the intricate and smooth form of an elephant emerged from the block of wood.
“How on earth do you make something so intricate and beautiful out of something so raw and rough?” asked the European.
“Simple” responded the craftsman. “All you do is take away all the bits of the block of wood that isn’t an elephant.”
One Point
So, dear HR colleagues, here’s your challenge for 2015: do your trendy HR initiatives help get the product onto the runway faster, or do they hinder it? Or, to put it more poetically, what HR initiatives could you discard that would allow the elephant to emerge more smoothly?