Art, I think that HR is in serious trouble for a number of reasons.
I also think that it has a very powerful role to play in
organisational learning if it addresses the trouble.
Some of the main trouble spots I see are: that HR is not as committed
to the results of its clients as many outside consultants are and
certainly not as committed as the client. (HR frequently does not
know who its clients are.) Also, HR is bound in concepts and
theories of people and organisations that are shallow and they offer
little of power in producing results. Also, HR is confused about
waht they are the source of, what they can do, and what is wanted
from them. (That is, what the client says is not necessarily what
the client wants - although it's probably in there somewhere.)
For instance, "that's the place where teams are made and brought
together" is a good starting place to demonstrate the above. I have
never been in an organisation which was serious about teams where the
teams started in HR nor were even brought together by HR. I have
seen HR - very occasionally - make real contribute to developing real
teams. These were in two ways. One was by providing experiences -
always outsourced - in team building. The other was by providing
follow-up - usually insourced - to develop what was started by the
A manager who is committed to teams is committed for performance
reasons and HR is seldom familiar with those in detail and is seldom
able to design the experiences and follow-up to match.
The main reason being that there are few HR people in companies who
can produce teams, who have been on great teams or, most
significantly, who are able to lead events and develop people to be
great team players. But there are many experts on theories about it.
The major problem is, most of the theories are based in mechanistic
approaches that don't work and most of the HR people are firmly
grounded in making hierarchies more human rather than making teams
that work - and which will challenge much of the hierarchy as we know
The great HR people that I know have worked for an executive who knew
what he/she wanted and the HR person developed into full and
effective support - usually with coaching from the exec. The very
good HR people that I know were developed in those places and now
have an orientation to praxis (theory and practice) where they aren't
original but are grounded in experience of actual teams working out
problems and challenges *as a way of doing business*. These people
are good people and they have learned to smell the bullshit which
most HR is sucked into.
How are we going to accomplish the transformations in human
behaviour, human thinking and our ability to be effective as groups,
teams and organisations without a strong HR function. Or is this
going to be outsourced as a temporary education and development job
which is beyond in-house expertise.
I think the answer is small but powerfully effective HR departments
and managers being the ones being developed so that HR become part of
-- Michael McMaster Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk