The H.R. Doctor Is In
grow and develop as individuals based upon structure in our
lives. Initially, the structure comes in utero from our
mothers. It comes from our parents in the initial few years of
our lives and gradually expands to take in other dimensions.
We start school. We develop friendships. We begin a career. We
end up with families of our own.
of these elements replace what would otherwise be chaos,
uncertainty and an inability to function. As individuals, we
would not survive. Our society would not survive.
Inside a bureaucracy, structure
is all around. You cant buy paperclips without following the
rules of the Purchasing Department. Certainly, if you work in
a Sheriffs Department or Fire-rescue department, there are
structures that govern day-to-day existence. Call them rules,
regulations, chain of command, policies - there are many
names, but they all refer to the same thing - the process
of substituting some form of productive and shared protocols
for randomness in order to produce something of value.
Structure is, therefore, essential to our individual well
being and to the health of society.
the other hand, too much structure kills creativity and makes
exploring new or controversial subjects very difficult and
uncomfortable for an individual. Arguably, it is creativity
and innovation that have the greatest positive effect on an
organization and on an individual.
other words, there is a tension between adhering to structure
mindlessly at one end of the spectrum and creative disregard
for convention on the other end. Neither extreme is helpful,
nor is it healthy.
overly structured organization is not a happy place to spend a
career. Rules that disregard the reality of what is going on
in the real world will doom an organization to high turnover
and low productivity. The rules in a successful organization
must not only allow, but must encourage, innovation and the
willingness to experiment, even at the risk of some
of the absolutely great points about a life in Human Resources
is that HR is in a position - or should be - to be a
gatekeeper in this tension between innovation and structure.
HR can be a center of policy development and rule enforcement,
especially in a civil service system or in a system bound and
limited by language in collective bargaining
However, HR also sees the human
reality of the need for flexibility in an organization. HR
patrols the border between rigid rules and the need for family
flexibility. It sees the need to balance organizational
efficiency and personal flexibility. It sees the health
troubles, discipline issues, great behavior and poor behavior
that goes on every day when multiple human beings find
themselves in the same organizations, at the same time, in the
is one thing to follow the rules when it comes to our
purchasing request to buy new paperclips. It is another thing
to deal with an employee who has been diagnosed with a fatal
illness, to constructively and effectively address the
behavior of a bully at work, or to recognize employees who
have done amazing work.
becomes the centerpiece that can help guide a chief
administrative officer or city manager in making the most
effective and balanced policy decisions possible. The more
complicated the world of public administration becomes, the
more a "gatekeeper" is needed.
is the architect of structure as well as the balance-beam
champion. This is a recipe for great contribution to an
organizations success Ñ if the staff members individually can
keep from going crazy in the process!
message for top elected and appointed leaders is that the most
important decisions you may ever make will be HR decisions: in
the selection of advisors and agency executives, in the
development of balanced policies, and in responding to
changing needs. Demand that the organization have a proactive
and energized HR function, professionally staffed, housed,
funded and accountable for the results it produces. Use HR to
enhance your success and the organizations. Build a building
using an architect! Build an organizational structure with the
blueprints developed by the "HRchitects."