Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter / CC BY-ND

Photo: H.Koppdelaney / Foter / CC BY-ND

There was a time, long, long time ago, when we had this organization unit called “Human resources”. I know, it is rude to talk about people as resources… it sounds silly now, but back then it was perfectly normal.

The people working for human resources wanted to be helpful and important partners for the people who were actually doing the job that the company was paid to do. HR had a big heart, and a really tough job. They had been taught, in schools, universities and in work life that their most important role was to help manage and lead people, help them work with efficiency and help them get to defined and measurable objectives to enable profitable business growth. They also cared for the well-being of employees. Human Resources executives were handpicked by CEOs to “take care of the people stuff for the management, while they were running the business”. HR really worked a lot, and wanted to be useful, needed to look (with a magnifying glass) for the ROI of their work.

During the years HR created tools, practices and policies, which helped managers keep track of, measure, and evaluate how well the workforce was working. A bit like looking at the performance of a machine or a motor. Capacities, efficiencies, estimated production rates, targets, deviations, classification, grouping, maintenance, normal distribution, planning, execution, feedback, updating the skills. Everything looked fine, finally HR had developed practices and policies, which were covering most requirements of people management.

The thing was that most people just did not feel the tools, practices and policies were working in real life. Somehow people did not behave in the way the processes were described, and training or stricter instructions did not change that fact, either. Executives were not satisfied with HR results, but could neither define what they really wanted out of their people operations, nor question the ongoing practices. HRs themselves were struggling, because they tried to keep something alive that just wanted to be killed all over the organization. *One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Blow.* Yes. That is the HR giving CPR to performance evaluations or competence mapping as late as 2015.

I need to tell you one thing, sweetie.

Working with people and their behavior, communication, emotions, performance, cognition, wellbeing and work is really not rocket science.

It is much, much more complex than that.

HR had actually tried to harness people operations with the tools of rocket science, and it simply did not work anymore, when the exponentially proceeding development and change of the surroundings just caught up.

The complexity of the business surroundings were driving people mad. “We need to develop the tools and practices to become even stricter, even more detailed, even more categories, even better evaluation!”, they said.

A minority of the HR’s and leaders experienced what was going on, and thought “whattahell, I can’t control what is going on anyway, so I might as well stop trying”. These HR realized the mindset, thinking patterns, tools and practices, which could be used to enable people’s self-directed complex engagement in a complex environment. For some time they were outliers. Until a tipping point was reached. Until large, established corporations, such as Accenture, Deloitte and Adobe said

– Enough with the CPR. The Performance evaluation and development discussions are dead. May they rest in peace. We have to move on.

Suddenly all HR’s were hearing about it!

– “Performance management is dead! Performance management is dead!”. They ran out on the streets in disbelief, something that they were holding so dear and important, something they had been building and polishing for years, was declared dead!

That was the year, honey, when HR started to evolve into what exist now. That was the year when new thinking started to arise. That was the year HR realized what complexity means. That is why you, darling, are going to enter a work life which looks very different than the one I entered into.

Riina Hellström

P.S.
Agile HR Finland wants to help Finnish HR’s take a leap towards modern ways of supporting people operations. Agile HR Finland is organizing a series of meetups during fall 2015-spring 2016 where HR people without previous agile experience are introduced to agile & lean & complexity thinking (mindset/philosophy) themes. These meetups are called Agile Wednesdays (fin. Ketterä Keskiviikko).

Please join the movement of creating next gen people operations. Start thinking in new ways. Start experimenting with new ways. Start understanding the mindset and laws of a complex domain.

Olet sydämellisesti tervetullut. You are warmly welcome.

More information on the Event pages.

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