The #human #resources and #social #political side of #business40
- Category: Rethinking Organizations
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Admittedly, for such a short post, the title is quite a mouthful.
But, frankly, this is neither a post nor one of my usual mini-essays with "dots" that I invite others to connect with their own "stock" of dots.
No, this is a signpost.
If you browse the articles on this series on "rethinking business", started officially in 2018 (but the first posts on this line appeared online within my old blog while I was still living in Brussels, since 2008), you will probably see here and there that my concept of "change" and "innovation" never transcends the human element.
You can add all the technology you want- and technology can be a significant enabler.
Nonetheless, our human society can adapt relatively fast, but our culture, at least in all the countries I worked and lived on, still retains an undercurrent of relics from our cultural past.
Just because something like PokemonGo takes few hours or days to spread as a virus, it does not imply that it will replace more than at a surface level habits that have been developed across thousands of years (and here I will set in the back-burner any discussion about epigenetics- have a look at Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics).
Habits? Social and cultural habits.
Now, over the last few months, and for the next few months, I added to my update both the "quant" refresh that I think anybody willing (or used) to be an agent of change should get used to in the forthcoming third decade of the XXI century (starting 2020).
As, whenever a technology becomes "pandemic", you have to factor it in within any consideration- or risk making choices that are irrelevant.
I am used to give the example of writing: an almost exoteric role few thousand years ago, evolving into a "technical" skill in the Middle Age (when even nobles were supposed to learn to read, not to write), to something that, in a twisted way (gestures, finger-tapping) is again evolving, but you cannot do without.
Ditto for the Internet- and a whiff of social media marketing (if everybody will be 24/7, everybody will have to interact directly and indirectly, i.e. by "influencing" and being influenced, and overlapping both and across multiple "circles of influence").
Social dynamics will change.
Therefore, I am also updating on what I saw decades ago but then, frankly, wasn't that much more interesting- as for a couple of decades kept being payroll and HR "measuring", but with a "look at the past" attitude.
Now often I see also HR jumping onto the "predictive" side of IT (in all its variants- AI, but also Big Data and Edge Computing within offices, eventually enforcing circles of influence as a way to build consensus and "emerging organizational structures" there too).
If the previous few paragraphs sound a bit "funny", try to re-read everything but visualizing in your mind what each element implies.
Then, overlap the pictures with what is your "current picture".
And now, you understand why I wrote above that this is just a signpost.
If you take words at face value, you end up following a thread prepared by others.
If, instead, you see them visually, you can spot inconsistencies with your own perception of reality, and maybe even "seed" a different perspective.
Now, I am also following since few months courses online and offline to "refresh" my understanding and "technical side" of HR (not just IT- even communication and motivation involve a lot of "technical" skills).
Why? Because if you are used to work with and manage team or interact with and orchestrate "human resources bubbles" (closed environments that interact with each other and develop an interaction protocol, e.g. supplier and customers), you will have increasingly an issue that has always been there- but is accelerating.
Which is: preparedness to shifting gear in adopting and adapting approaches.
Let's say that everybody talks about "machine learning", and that you decide to introduce that in your organization, but across all the areas, not just in IT.
Generally, AI and its subset machine learning are closer to the 1980s-1990s Expert Systems and Decision Support Systems than traditional, transaction-oriented ICT.
Why? Because only the business side has the potential to understand impacts- therefore, in most applications of that technological innovation, business should not be just a provider of requests, but also an active leader, with technical and technology experts being within business team.
Otherwise, you risk having machine learning experts doing the "if your only tool is the humble hammer, everything looks as a nail".
And, to be honest, some of the machine learning and big data case studies made me think: did anybody grown-up and with real business experience consider the consequences?
Let's give an example, that I was sharing recently.
If tomorrow you decide that you are unable to decide which skills you need, a Google HR approach would be: look at the studies from researchers and go onto the meta-analysis (i.e. look across multiple studies), as reminded by a SAP/Mannheim University course on "People Analytics and Evidence-Based Management" https://open.sap.com/courses/pa1-tl that I am about to complete soon.
Another approach could be: let's see what the leaders do.
Frankly, if you read my blog (not just this section on rethinking business), you know that also when I was selling methodologies some customers complained that I wasn't simply doing "reuse of best practices", and my answer was always that best practices derive from a context (be it a quantitative model such as COCOMO https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COCOMO - or a specific way to manage career paths), and that anyway, also if you were to have exactly the same context, by adopting best practices built elsewhere with no adaptation, at best you would be implementing in few years what is few years old now.
It makes sense, sometimes; but, often, it makes sense only because your management consultants convinced you to do so.
If you "inject" this "a-critical best practices" with Big Data and machine learning, you could be actually following a band-wagon approach.
The more organization look at what is "trendy" on the market or done by so-called market leaders, the more you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will dump what is unique to your organization, mimick what does not necessarily work in yours, and end up with a corporate culture (and systems landscape) that looks like one of those mythical creatures.
This post was supposed to be short, and it is pushing toward 1,500 words.
Let's just say that, as I did in the 1980s and 1990s (my approach to change owed more to philosophy, cultural anthropology, political economy, than to technology, albeit I liked to "blend" experts from all potentially positively contributing sides), my updates include also looking at what both businesses and the public sector are not just doing, but also planning to do, and, moreover, at their Weltanschauung, their perception of current and projected reality.
Albeit, sometimes, hearing some speeches made me think more to those waiting for the year 1,000 to come, than to business architects designing the future social structure of their organizations.
I will share more information soon, but probably it makes more sense to write one of my short mini-books.
And, actually, I had a couple of the "connecting the dots" series of mini-books already sitting on my hard-disk in various degrees of completion since 2015 (you can read the first 5 volumes here https://robertolofaro.com/books/connectingthedots).
But time flies- and, also if supposedly I am not into the PokemonGo line of business, that hype cycle in technology (ICT and business methods, approaches, etc) is getting shorter and shorter, up to the point when many do not study or decide- simply, jump on what is trendier.
Am I not into games? I used what is called now gamification also for my first major cultural change customers, between the late 1980s - early 1990s, as anybody teaching probably did, but using technology, albeit I can only envy what can be done now with mobile phones apps, and once in a while think about what could have been done in the 1980s - 1990s with some "Pavlovian" interventions, if everybody had had a smartphone and gamification could have been on both instant and continuous feed-back.
In the future, probably what I was used to while working for an Andersen company, a rating form where everybody strives to achieve an "outstanding" rating, but one or few times a year, will look as obsolete as steam-driven cars would do now.
Anyway, before jumping on yet another technology- and consultants-driven "push" that is presented as if it were a "pull" (as many managers seem convinced that they "asked for" bits of technologies- good salesmanship), maybe spending few hours following courses and comparing notes with peers across different industries should be enough to raise doubts, and rebuild critical thinking skills that often, in our technological world, seems to be drowned by piles of useless data.