Carnival of HR: Challenging the future of the organisation…

Well here it is folks – my first ever hosting of the illustrious Carnival of HR and what an honour. Hopefully it won’t be my last 😉 To make things a little more interesting I decided to pick a theme, which turned out to be “challenging the future of the organisation”. It’s been a hotly debated topic of late on twitter and the blogoshere and I’m sure the conversation will run and run. You can see my brief to bloggers here.

So without further ado, lets take a deep dive into the contributions and what a great crop they are too. First up is a new acquaintance of mine, Broc Edwards, or @foolwithaplan as he is known on twitter. In his first post for Carnival – Why hierarchies? Pizza and Beer Syndrome – he explores why most organisations ‘settle’ for the status quo when there appear to be significant benefits in moving away from our accepted way of structuring a business. Turns out good trumps great, especially if there is effort involved – where have I heard that before?!

One of the points Broc raises is just how difficult it is to move an organisation – especially a large one – from a traditional top down hierarchy to a flatter, more democratic and collaborative environment. But as David Burkus points out in his post – How hierarchies kill creativity (don’t be fooled by the title, this is a sound and objective post) – you don’t have to ditch the “hierarchy of no” as he refers to it totally – it’s a journey and there is a lot you can do to in order to reap the benefits immediately whilst making the transition, learning as you go. In the post he references a company called Rite-Solution and their innovative approach to nurturing creative ideas. It’s a great case study and well worth researching further. If anyone is interested I have further information and detail on what they have done – ping me on twitter or via this site for details.

To give some cultural context to organisations structures, Lois Melbourne shares some real life insights into the differences in approaches across different cultures, referencing the difference between India, Europe and America in her post – Lessons in organisational design from around the world. She adds a nice little challenge to resourcing and HR folk at the end of the post to really think hard about, and question your future talent on, the kind of organisational structure that suits them best before both sides make any long term commitments to each other. The environment is key.

Next up is Mike Booguard, who works in the internal collaboration space. Mike is another guy who I’ve had a meeting of minds with over a coffee in recent months. In his post – The workplace is becoming an ‘I-mocracy” – he shares with us some research he via a question on LinkedIn – How will we be working in 5 – 10 years? What will our workspace look like? His conclusion is that whether employers like it or not, “we are shaping our own workplace. The balance of power is shifting and employers are having to play catch up to our demands.”

Taking this concept a little further, Ian Welsh don’s his “Mystic Meg” type robes and takes a peek into his crystal ball to share his vision of the future workplace and how the HR function will look – HR Fortune Telling at the Carnival – Our HR Future. Beware – its leaderless, automated and HR generalists reign supreme!

Turning to people, we have a crop of bloggers with views on how changing the way we behave at work, especially leaders, will create more productive organisations and engaged (the holy grail) workforces. Julie Winkle Giulioni offers up a simple game in her post – Which Would You Rather – to illustrate that the most effective leaders create workplaces which address the basic human needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence. Following on from that, Benjamin McCall, one of my US HR buddies and a driving force behind #HREvolution (Check it out if you haven’t already – great community going on there) offers up that age old trick – KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid in his post – Want better performance from your employees? Create a list! – where he argues that being clear as leaders about your expectations is a very powerful but often missed.

How about performance management? Me, I’m not convinced that in its current format it has any relevance or value for longer term organisational success and Nicole Jue from the Institute for Corporate Productivity would seem to agree. In her post – Four major flaws of forced ranking – she challenges the sense of forced ranking in performance management as pioneered by GE in the 80’s. Not only is it an engagement and innovation killer, you could be unwittingly helping your competitors by adopting the practice.

In any case, is the workforce of the future likely to tolerate such a practice? It might have been acceptable in the days of doffing caps at our superiors, but in these modern times, despite the relatively poor state of the economy and the job market, people are more inclined to tell you exactly what you can do with your forced ranking system and vote with their feet – especially the younger generation, as pointed out by Paul Baribeau in his post – What about hiring generation Y you ask?. He reminds us that generational difference have always occurred and that there are benefits though in exploiting these differences.

Talking of which, pop over to Mervyn Dinnen’s blog, T-Recs, where in his post – 5 Challenges organisations have to face before they evolve – he charts the key challenges facing organisations, chief among them being the skills and knowledge gap we have/are creating, especially around the future workforce. He points to some very informative sources and references and makes a great argument for the “conversational” organisation. Over at HR Hound, Ben Martinez continues the conversational theme in his post – Web 2.0 for HR is so overt it’s covert – by making a rather natty reference to Sherlock Holmes in his call for HR to overcome its negative view of social and collaborative tools . If the resourcing team are embracing it, then so should HR he says.

Perhaps the key here is not re inventing the organisation but instead, re inventing leadership. Jamie Notter, in this post – Want innovation? Look at management – points out that whilst we are attempting to innovate in pretty much every area of business, the subject of management is the exception. Things have changed an awful lot over the last 50 to 100 years but the blueprint for management has hardly changed at all. Totally agree.

But then its not easy is it? As Broc has already pointed out. Innovating in management means looking in the mirror – not something most of us want to do especially if it means charting new and unfamiliar territory. In her post – Collaborative leadership in a global societyLinda Fisher Thornton sums up nicely what being a collaborative leader really means and how uncomfortable making the leap can be.

Looking in the mirror from an organisational, as well as an individual context can also reap benefits. Jesse Lyn Stoner challenges us to think long and hard about what business are we really in – what is our purpose? in her post – How to identify your team or organisations purpose. If your answer is to create xyz products, deliver services or make money then to the back of the class with you, don the Dunces hat and see me after school. On a similar note, Mark Stelzner charts his own personal journey of learning what his business was/is really about in his post – What we learned from 6 months of change. In doing so he touches on the importance of reciprocity in terms of giving away your value as a consultant and also how much you can get just by shutting up for a few minutes and listening – especially to the quiet ones in the corner.

Which brings me nicely to the final post, which I kept until last on purpose. This final piece is by a guy called John Stepper. John’s blog is relatively new to me but I really like his take. Like Jamie Notter, John gave me free reign to pick a recent piece from his blog and my choice is this one – How’s work? I really like this piece and think it is a fitting way to end this carnival because its all about the most important thing in this entire debate – you. John charts his personal journey to finding autonomy, purpose, mastery and community which he did by changing only one thing – his attitude. The company,the job and the desk all stayed the same which is even more remarkable when you consider that he is currently a Managing Director within Deutche Bank in New York – no offence John. 😉

As Confucius said: “Change is a door that can only be opened from the inside.”

It’s a wrap, hope you enjoyed the Carnival!


  1. wow…that’s a mouthful. Love the intent, we’re obviously of the same mindset. My one peccadillo, I refuse to spell “organisation” without my “z”


  2. A really great Carnival, Gareth! I left a comment earlier but it hasn’t appeared, so I will try again. I love your really thoughtful linking narrative, Gareth, and, off course, the great articles it is linking on our critical HR subject. Thank you for inviting us to the Carnival and making it such a great show!


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