Saturday, 12 November 2011

HR, Organisational Development .... and all that Jazz

Now that the 2011 CIPD Conference in Manchester is in the past, I've had a couple of days to reflect on the highs and lows, and consider which of the seminars and sessions will be the most likely to leave lasting impressions, and also to ponder what the annual gathering says about those of us who work in the people business.

My immediate observation is that HR remains a profession in search of an identity. The long-running debate on what unique offering can be made by HR has clearly not yet been resolved. In particular the question of what is the relationship between HR and Organisational Development rambles on pretty much as it has done over the last few years, with little likelihood of an answer or agreement.

One or two of the sessions pointed to a recognition that we know that OD is something that HR professionals are supposed to "do", despite the fact that we're not quite sure what it is. Much as I enjoyed participating in one of the longer afternoon workshops promising I'd leave with a deeper of understanding of organisational development and leadership, I'd argue that there was little in the session that most HR professionals would recognise as solid OD content.

I was reminded of a gig I went to in a pub a few years ago, where the band (Metro Jazz, I recall with amusement) announced their first number with the words "This is a Jazz song by The Jam" and then launched into a relatively faithful-to-the-original rendition of Going Underground. Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, and Eton Rifles were also each introduced as "Another Jazz song by The Jam."

I left after about four numbers. It was fun, but it wasn't Jazz. I'd gone to hear a Jazz group, but was treated to a few frivolous moments of English Punk Rock/Mod Revival. Just calling something Jazz doesn't make it Jazz. Just calling something OD doesn't make it Organisational Development either.

The CIPD's own definition of OD is "A planned and systematic approach to enabling sustained organisation performance throught the involvement of its people." Even the somewhat confusing syntax of that definition betrays the confusion that persists in the minds of many of us in the HR profession.

To be quite honest, althought I firmly believe that OD is important for HR, I'm not totally clear on what it is.

Are you any wiser?

Anyway, to avoid frying my brain, I'm going to listen to some real Jazz. Enjoy the clip in the sidebar on the right. It's by the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, whose leader died in a scuba diving accident in 2008 at the tragically early age of 44.

1 comment:

  1. Good point.
    I have been pondering doing something on the OD or the lack thereof for a while. Time to get it on the agenda for 2012 I think.