In Part I of our journey down the yellow brick road to great HRM and HRM delivery systems, I set the stage in terms of the environment in which our organizations must operate and what they must do to be successful. By now you should have decided for your own organization — or will do this shortly — which of these organizational context and strategy factors, and perhaps others, are relevant and to what degree.
In that post, I suggested that you gather up all the materials you could find on your own organization’s operating context, business vision, strategies, and defined business outcomes — or the relevant range of same for your target markets/industries/geographies/scope of products and services/etc. if you’re an HRM software vendor or HRO provider. You can use the thoughts in Part I as a starting point or checklist. If you’ve done that homework, you’re ready for the first formal steps down the yellow brick road.
Every organization must have a clearly expressed vision for itself. What is the organization’s raison d’etre? What is the organization’s value proposition to its customers, shareholders and employees? What does the organization want to do and be? Why should shareholders, customers, employees, etc. invest their resources, including their time, in the organization? By what measures and target values over what time period will the organization recognize achievement of this vision?
This last point about measures, target values and time periods is a very important one and will be repeated over and over again along the yellow brick road. I’m a very strong believer that you can’t achieve goals that aren’t clearly stated or improve something unless you can measure it. Are you trying to be the highest volume, lowest cost global producer of radish twizzlers or to produce and sell the best small batch ice cream in Southwest Florida. Visons don’t have to be grand, but they do have to be both clear and aspirational.
When I started down my own personal yellow brick road mid-2008 to achieve a new level of fitness (what? you didn’t realize that I apply this methodology to all of life?), I had to start in the very same place. While I’m not going to share my personal fitness vision, target values and time frames for their accomplishment with all of you, these same facts about your own organization should be documented clearly and reviewed with senior management before you take another step.
Next up, with that vision statement hung in a prominent place, is to determine the organizational business strategies that will be needed to achieve the vision. By now some of you are saying that these matters are pretty far removed from HRM and the HRMDS — and you’re right. But the only way to ensure that HRM and the HRMDS are designed to support the organization’s business requirements is to understand at a very deep level what those requirements are. And the only way to ensure that your business case for any needed investments in HRM or the HRMDS will be unassailable is to build that business case, one step at a time, as you travel the yellow brick road.
Everything we do in HRM and the HRMDS, except for those processes/actions/investments that are needed for purely compliance reasons — and I’ll have a lot more to say about that further down the road — MUST be tied back to the organizational vision, strategies and needed outcomes. This is what is meant when we say that we’re trying to draw a line of sight from HRM and the HRMDS to the organization’s needed business outcomes, and vice versa. It’s the very practical reality behind that horrible buzzword: alignment!
So what are those organizational business strategies? What must the organization do well to achieve its vision? To meet stakeholder expectations? By what strategies will the organization drive customer satisfaction, shareholder value and workforce effectiveness? What strategies are needed to overcome specific obstacles to achieving the vision? What strategies are needed to address specific issues that the organization and/or its industry faces?
When organizational business strategies are numerous, lacking in specificity, undergoing major changes, very diverse, etc., it may be necessary to work from strategies to outcomes via outcome categories or topics. However, as quickly as possible, these categories or topics should be transformed into very specific outcomes along with the relevant target values and time frames.
Our last step for now along the yellow brick road is the jumping off point for strategic HRM and HRMDS planning — business outcomes. But the work we’ve been doing is also the jumping off point for developing the strategies for every other business process or area of activity. So no duplication of effort here. Bloom & Wallace is a green operation which urges our clients to reuse their own good work wherever possible. How will the organization recognize, via objective measures within a defined time frame, to what extent its organizational business strategies and needed results are being achieved? By what measures and target values within a defined time frame will the organization’s progress toward its vision be validated via results and/or problem areas revealed?
Hopefully your organization has long since done the heavy lifting on all of this post’s topics, and all you have to do is to find the right documents and pull them together. Or not. Frankly, I’m all too often disheartened when I go into an end-user organization to discover that this work hasn’t been done or hasn’t been done with enough specificity, organizational agreement and management leadership to serve as the foundation for the rest of the strategic planning work for which I’ve been engaged. One long ago project in particular comes to mind, which ended very quickly for me. When I started asking the CEO these questions, after the client team had done their best but to no avail, he got huffy, and I became persona non gratis. I did tell you that we’d be meeting some characters en route to Oz.
This is usually the point in my introduction of the Yellow Brick Road methodology when my HR executive client says: That all sounds great Naomi, but our organization doesn’t have quite so explicit a set of business outcomes… Our strategies are under review… We’ve just gotten a new CEO/CFO/CXX/take your pick, and who knows where they’re going to want to take us… No problem I say, in my best consulting guru voice. Perhaps we could facilitate a work session that would provide us with enough guidance (not to mention getting the entire organization on track strategically) to support the rest of our journey? This is where we take what some may call a detour or worse but what I prefer to call a picturesque side road to unexpected travel pleasures. If you go back to my Part I post and combine it with this post, then really study your own organization’s business, you’ll have plenty of material to structure such a work session if one is needed, so no excuses allowed.
Whether you’ve gotten there on the Autobahn or via the winding back roads of southern France, Part III will use everything you’ve learned along the way to tackle HRM. I’ll pick this up in a week or so to give you time to travel the road of Part II. Safe travels.