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June 06, 2005
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 The H.R. Doctor Is In

Thinking Outside the Litter Box

Very recently, brand new carpeting was installed at the Rosenberg home as part of a much delayed remodeling. Any remodeling project, of a home or of a business practice, is complicated, often more expensive than envisioned and often full of unexpected surprises.

Soon after the arrival of the new carpet, the HR cat and the HR dog, Kamala, experienced gastro-intestinal distress, which was relieved on our new carpet.

Of course, this did not please the rest of the family who had the clean-up duty as well as the concern about the health of the family pets. Nonetheless, the unexpected mess was dealt with, cleaned up, and we moved on. In fact, the HR animals may simply have been informing us that they were concerned about all this remodeling and wanted to make a point that they were not consulted in the choice of color, texture or scheduling.

So it is often with business remodeling. When plans are announced for a process change, an outsourcing, the replacement of technology or a service delivery change of any kind, an atmosphere of uncertainty is created for the employees, the managers and, in fact, even for the clients (not to mention the employees’ pets).

This is often especially true of process changes involving automation. The promises made by the vendor’s sales and marketing staff may not come to pass the way you expected when the marketers leave the scene and the implementation staff arrives. Actually, at this point, it’s probable that many of the vendor staff will have already found other positions and left the project team.

My human resources colleagues report that when human resources information system (HRIS), are installed, the cost is generally considerably higher than it was thought to be initially and the frustrations follow the cost-line on the chart in terms of causing blood pressure problems for staff. The outcome is certainly different than the old way of doing business, (i.e., the legacy system), but it is not always a totally positive difference.

A chorus of employees can still be heard long after the implementation saying, "Why did we have to do this?" "If only the old system remained!" "Nobody consulted me before the choice was made!" These protests sparked by dissatisfaction and frustration can hurt productivity and lead to requirements to engage in "clean-up."

Every innovation means change. Every change causes uncertainty, and every manager must become a controller or mitigator of uncertainty to be successful in his or her career, let alone in the particular project du jour.

The control of uncertainty is the critical management skill of the 21st Century. It requires a consultative style, mixed with vision and a respect for the opinion of others. Of course, a strong sense of humor and empathy towards those affected represent key skills as well.

While the technical details of some new innovation or automation change can be gleaned from the technical experts who are critical to the implementation of the project itself, these other components, such as the overall vision and the ability to move other people toward sharing that vision, are much more elusive.

The real art in process improvement is not the art of the accountant or of the technician. It is the art of the leader who sees a positive vision of the future, and offers the organization, and its employees help, caring and the ability to think outside of the litter box!

All the best,

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor

P.S. Have you purchased your very own copy of the HR Doctor’s book, Don’t Walk by Something Wrong!?? It’s never too late! Try!


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