How much of your work really makes a difference? How much is about achieving your organisation’s purpose and how much about organisational goals? And are they even the same?
One of the biggest drivers of organisational performance is alignment, an area less talked about than two other “A terms” – agility and adaptability. But I’d argue that in many ways, the key to being a truly agile organisation starts with alignment.
So what do we mean when we talk about organisational alignment? One of my favourite explanations is this one from Jonathan Trevor and Barry Varcoe via Harvard Business Review.
Ultimately it s the way in which we organise ourselves to fulfil our organisational purpose. Are the goals we are working to helping to deliver this, do we have the organisational capability and are our resources organised and supported to achieve these aims?
It also asks us to challenge ourselves about the things that we do that aren’t helpful to this aim. Every act that we do that isn’t aligned to our purpose takes resource and time away from activities that could be.
The meetings that we have that aren’t productive
The processes we create that take disproportionate time versus outcome
The activities that are only self-fulfilling
The vanity projects that we struggle to end
Alignment is a great way of thinking not only about the overall organisational context, but as an individual functional head, or department lead. We can easily look at the work of others and talk about the shortcomings and the lack of necessity, but how about we take the same time to really consider our own work and efforts. What could we stop, start, do better?
Finally, back to the other A word. Agility is best achieved through clear purpose. When we know what and why were trying to achieve something, it helps us to adapt quickly and realign in changing circumstances.
But ultimately, it is exactly that alignment that gets things delivered.
1) Adaptability – HR has been built on creating fixed structure and immobility. That’s where we used to add value, but no more. The frustration that we hear in a lot of organisations is that the world is demanding more flexibility and yet the profession is slow to catch up. We need to be more adaptable, able to turn our hands to anything and make decisions based on the immediate circumstances that face us, to help our businesses move forward.
2) Tech Savvy – I can’t repeat this too many times; if you don’t understand technology then you’re going to find yourself obsolete pretty damn quickly. It isn’t a case of being an expert, although having some coding experience in your team is never going to hurt. Our experience as human beings is increasingly influenced by technology, so if you want to be in HR you need to understand that experience.
3) Commerciality – Before I lose you….I’m not talking about the stupid linear relationship that most people draw when they talk about HR and commercial reality. I’m talking about the big global issues that you need to understand to help your organisation navigate the next ten or twenty years. Demographics, pension legislation, immigration and emigration, skills and education. Changes in FX rates, inflation and interest rates. You’re on top of them right?
4) Creativity – If we are going to adaptable, tech savvy and commercial then we sure as hell need to be creative too. We too often look down our noses at creativity and view pragmatism as the holy grail of HR. Remind me the last time you went to a party and talked to your friends or family about this amazing piece of pragmatism. Then ask yourself the same question about creativity. It matters.
5) Connectivity – Our ability to see inter connections, relationships, to look inside and out and see how things relate, to understand the impact of one element of practice on another is critical. Our ability to think systematically and understand that neither our organisations nor our practice can operate in isolation. We need to be the organisational glue, not the institutional porridge.