The Case for a OE group in organizations & a OE body of Knowledge in HRD
By R. Anand, Convener, OE Core Group, NHRDN; Amit Malik, Co-Convener; Dhananjay Singh, Executive Director, NHRDN;
Members – Shaily Rampal Mishra, Shailesh Goyal, Sunil Omanwar, Rajiv Arora
A work group of managers practicing in the field of organizational effectiveness are coming together at the NHRD Network. They intend to create a set of lighthouse questions and events that could shape the way Organizational effectiveness (OE) as a body of knowledge and practices evolve in India. This paper outlines the role, scope and impact of a OE group in an organizational context. It also sketches the key skills required of the OE practitioner and the adjacent disciplines that could shape the way the area of organizational effectiveness would evolve. The idea is to initiate a larger debate on the need to formalize and strengthen this group in organizations. And to current practitioners, offer a platform to ask questions, exchange experiences and further research& development in this area
Firstly, what is Organizational Effectiveness?
The areas of talent management, leadership development, organization design and structure, design of measurements and scorecards, implementation of change and transformation, deploying smart processes and smart technology to manage the firms' human capital, the formulation of HR agenda seem to be the origin or direct concern of OE group in organizations
If an organization does have practices and programs in the areas above, the OE group does many or all of the following roles
- Examines alignment between the areas and improves them
- Improves trade-offs between reliability, speed and quality in the above areas
- Strategizes for higher adoption rates in these areas
- Facilitates/initiates/catalyses capability building : structure, process and people
The OE head helps the head of HR and the leadership team to enhance effectiveness whilst answer primarily the “Why” ( what & how) question on several organizational efforts, the many methods used to direct these efforts and what is the best way to communicate them
By making the CHRO effective, the OE function gets the co-pilot status for the CHRO, just as the CFO is considered a co-pilot today.The OE group can also improve each of the conventional areas of HR – whether talent acquisition, compensation strategy, employee engagement with the lens of effectiveness, enhancing each functional area and simultaneously making them “integrable” with other Human capital processes.
Case-studies of how, when and where such a journey has been accomplished will be important reference resources to collect, analyze and build upon.
Another key axis of contribution of the OE group is the HR capability management agenda. This includes hiring a diverse set of profiles in HR, developing them in the twin dimensions of functional specialization as well as in contextual deployment. Helping introduce effectiveness frameworks for the organization (e.g. Balance Scorecards, Malcolm Baldridge framework) or for HR (people CMM) would be ways to accomplish organizational upgrades to thrive in the digital future
We see three dimensions to the work of the core group
1. Positive & Negative Outcomes: The core group could visualize the negative outcomes that can be prevented and the positive outcomes that can be generated when the OE group plays its role effectively in their industry contexts. This is where a cross-member discussion could shed light on problems of one industry in the area of organizational effectiveness that has been solved by the other industry. This is one thread of the evolution of practices and resources for the OE practitioner.
2. Leveraging Adjacent Disciplines: Rapid advances in social sciences and technology aided by clever experimentation and observation is bringing several truths to the light of society. There are several disciplines of social sciences that help the OE Practitioner be successful. Four of them, not necessarily exhaustive are outlined below
a. Decision Making - How do real people decide? How could we assess the many decisions that our people make and help them real time to make good decisions? Is there a considered way to improve quality of decisions? Behavioral economics as a specific discipline and if we can replicate relevant experiements, create new ones and implement their results to make organizations effective will be a point of construction and leverage
b. Change & Learning - How do real people learn and change, adopt and align? How do they get “affected” by dynamics in the environment? How do we use this knowledge to create effective organizations that are pioneers of change and learning, and not its victims?
c. Group Effectiveness - How do real people work well together, especially in bringing new ideas and innovations? What works and what does not in people to people protocols? How do these protocols get impacted by the digital life that we live? For example, how do we visualize group effectiveness when 50% of working life becomes virtual?
d. Self-Organizing & Adaptive Systems - What does the discipline of self-organizing systems teach us about constructing effective organizations? What are the tangible ways by which this can be put to play? What are the upsides and downsides of highly networked systems?
The core group members could explore these OE related disciplines, in terms of myths and realities, proven techniques and trends for potential application of these disciplines in their industry context.
3. The third dimension of exploration is skills of the OE practitioner
The OE practitioner is an ongoing organizational consultant (internal). In this role, the OE practitioner carefully uses the spectrum of directiveto non-directive methods to build consensus on the strategy for organization. Persuading, Advocating and providing expert advice would qualify as directing approach. Proposing alternatives, designing the problem solving process or helping reflect by asking key questions will be non-directive.
The OE practitioner builds capacity by orchestrating purposeful individual, group and organizational learning. Starting from assessing readiness to learn to thawing the mind and opening it up for learning and seizing “teach-able” moments to learn and grow, the OE practitioner educates.
The OE practitioner increases authentic conversations in the leadership team and organization - by bringing the head, heart and hand of the members of organization. He / Shesynthesizes them to examine expectations, goals, ideas, commitments. By probing sensitively and presenting this information in a manner that is helpful to plan and implement the desired change, the practitioner serves as a crucial link.
By describing what the organization wants to accomplish in the future, building agreement on the means of achieving it, the OE practitioner helps plan the use of resources. The practitioner adds value in both the wise use of resources as well as increasing goal assurance.
The OE practitioner thus consults, educates, links and plans. Often, she plays the role of a catalyst of change and provokes alternative perspectives
The OE practitioner is required to bring value across two dimensions - Knowledge of change and organizational effectiveness technologies, as well as deep understanding of the business. Longer term incumbents of OE in organization bring the advantage of knowing the history of efforts and their successes and failures; however a newcomer, as long as they have a learning plan to figure out things is also successful.
Very often an external consulting partner is not able to substitute for an on the rolls OE head for two reasons. Firstly, the knowledge of individuals, aspirations and also the legitimacy to have conversations about them is limited for them. Secondly, the OE head has more stakes to see it through, make the change and transformation happen.
Similarly, a good business HR partner is not able to fill up for an OE head. This is because of the specialist know-how involved as well as conflict of interest with the business HR partner role.
In terms of getting anchored, the OE head is most often seen as reporting to the head of HR. However, as part of the planning and governance of organizational change – both incremental and radical (transformation), the CEO and the senior leadership team get involved.
While the skills, know-how, personality & orientation are the subjects of another note, suffice to say that a high degree of personal and emotional maturity is called for in playing this role. Since the role holder has privileged information, the standards of integrity and conduct in presence and action are extremely high. First, and foremost, the OE practitioner must belong. Thereafter, he/she should be the recipient of high levels of trust, and never seen as “grinding axe” or working for a personal cause. The ability to detach oneself from the area deliberated on is a key success characteristic. Also critical for medium term success is the courage to be the organizations’ conscience, no matter what the personal consequence.
With this repertoire of skills and orientations, the OE practitioner exercises considerable influence on several HR and business practice areas. The reporting to head of HR brings the legitimacy.The principles of governance encourage other practitioners to consult the head of OE in designing and synchronizing their efforts to the evolution of the organization. Even without a mandate, the helpful orientation and value addition draw other practitioners to consult the head of OE.
Industry and organizational context often dictate which of the areas of - talent management, leadership development, organization design and structure, design of measurements and scorecards, implementation of change and transformation, deploying smart processes and smart technology to manage the firms' human capital, the formulation of HR agenda - does the OE head directly own. Typically the principle applied is if it is high scale and operational intensity, the role of OE is consulting and design and If it is lesser in intensity but critical to get right, then OE head owns execution. For instance, leadership recruitment might be owned by OE head in some contexts.
In the non-profit sector, the OE practitioner defines the objectives of a program, clarifies and prioritizes them as well as advocates the right execution life cycle. In this regard, this OE practitioner functions as a double loop learning specialist, clarifying if these are the most worthwhile goals to pursue in the first place.
In most instances, talent review, organization design and structuring, change and transformation governance, developmental HCM process constructs, Business and HR scorecards, design of leadership development efforts and annual HR planning are directly owned by the OE head.
Should an organization decide to seed the OE function, perhaps the areas above are good places to start for direct ownership. In addition, an orchestration ownership for other areas mentioned would multiply the impact of OE for organizations.
Just like there is a strategy for the market and customers, the OE group primarily determines, influences, champions the human capital strategy for organization. How and how well depends on the skills she brings, the adjacent disciplines in social sciences she knows about and applies as well as the direct efforts to generating positive outcomes and minimizing negative outcomes for every industry context
One of the key stakeholders the OE group must directly address is the CEO. There is a significant value and expectation dialogue from the CEO for the HR community. As and when the CEOs addresses the effectiveness of organization question squarely to the CHRO, the OE function is said to have arrived in the industry. The OE core group certainly needs to address the CEO as a constituency in promoting the body of knowledge and the practice of Organizational effectiveness
The new HR practitioners are also a constituency. Today, while the OE function evokes a sense of aspiration and admiration, current HR practitioners do not see a path – how they can become OE practitioners, how can they hope to make a difference (role models, benchmarks) and how do they grow further. Providing tangibility to the question – how to start the practice of OE and how to become an OE practitioner, will be an important objective for this group
Similarly, in the academic side of HR, when B-Schools introduce a course of OE as the integrating course in HR, much like Business Policy or Strategic Management serves this integration function in the general management MBA, the OE as a body of knowledge would have been a milestone reached. For this, the academic community needs to be engaged - with specific material, teaching plan, action learning projects and benefits
The core group hopes it can help organizations in India become more effective by catalyzing our knowledge and efforts in all the three dimensions of – building a OE dashboard (positive and negative outcomes), leveraging adjacent disciplines and building OE practitioner skills.