Delivery is everything

If I had one single wish, something that I could change about the world that we live in, it would be to ensure that people delivered on their commitments.

The amount of time that is wasted chasing others to follow through, courier companies, our public services, utility companies and of course colleagues at work. The time is totally unproductive – in and of itself, it moves nothing, adds no value, creates no meaning.

And think about those services that pretty much always deliver, the restaurant where the service is faultless, the retailer who always hits their delivery slot, the bank that can always help. The delight that is created through the consistent and regular fulfilment of its stated obligations.

In a world where the consumer is king, delivery is divine.

My advice to anyone entering in to a career in HR, that wants to change the perception of the function and profession, is to focus on delivery as a critical tenet of your strategy, both personally and as a function as a whole.

When dates are set, keep to them. When promises made, fulfil them. When actions agreed, complete them. If you want to create the promised delight, then the delivery of the solution is as important as product. And that repeats every day.

There’s a phrase in restaurant kitchens, “you’re only as good as your last service”. If you want to make a real step change in your organisational perception, take this to heart and realise that consistent delivery is key.

In fact, it’s (almost) everything.

Stand and deliver

We all have a friend, or someone we know who is a little bit flaky. They say they’re going to meet you for lunch and then send a text at the last-minute. You invite them for dinner and they arrive 45 minutes late. You need their help and they’re far too busy, despite the fact that you spent the whole of the previous weekend doing something for them.

And we know how much it sucks.

One thing I’ve noticed about HR teams over the years is that they can be the organisational equivalent of that flaky friend. On one hand demanding that the rest of the organisation complies with their timelines and timescales (performance review cycle, anyone?) and at the same time committing and not delivering and being sloppy with turnaround times. It’s a hypocrisy that isn’t lost on other parts of the business.

I don’t think there is one reason why this happens, I think there are multiple causes. HR tends to be the recipient of lots of bitty work. For the employee or manager that “bit” is important, but for the department, adrift in a sea of “bits” it can often get overlooked. Also, HR tends to lack completer-finishers, the people who will go that extra mile to make sure that things are delivered to perfection. And finally, we just tend to do too much “stuff”, mostly unimportant, fabricated, self-serving stuff too.

HR teams that are valued, that add value and are well-respected, analyse, identify, commit and deliver. On the big and the small. They can deliver the really big important initiatives on time and to spec, but they can also handle the million small things that make a difference to the individual employees within the organisation. And they can do it day in and day out.

But most importantly of all, the team needs to value delivery and take pride in making things happen. Too often failure to deliver is blamed on external factors, stakeholder reaction, lack of resource or “too much on”. When the real cause is a lack of focus, attention to detail and pure passion to deliver excellence. It doesn’t always go right and sometimes we need to hold our hands up and accept that, (as one of my team recently said, “we didn’t cover ourselves in glory there”) but realising when things go wrong, means you know what “right” looks like.

Professionalising the HR function and focus on service delivery doesn’t require it to be outsourced to “experts” who will work to a process manual but really don’t give a damn about your organisation or your people, it requires us as professionals to instil the right mindset.

We tolerate the flaky friend because we like them, we might even need them, but we LOVE the friend that is always there when they said and exceeds our expectations. And if HR wants to be taken seriously, it needs to be THAT friend.