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Welcome to the April issue of Alignment Solutions! This month’s theme is Identifying and Overcoming Causes of Misalignment. Inspired by the words attributed to the cartoon character Pogo in the 1970s – i.e., “We have met the enemy and he is us” - we take a look at some of the ways we may be responsible for obstructing organizational and personal success, and recommend ways to remove or minimize those practices.

The Feature Article suggests reasons why two functional areas, human resources (HR) and information technology (IT), are failing to live up to their potential as drivers of business success and proposes ways to change that picture.

The Business Solutions section offers a framework to help you support HR’s and IT’s natural talents as drivers of business success.

The Personal Solutions section challenges you to increase the enjoyment of your life by improving your talents rather than struggling to overcome your weaknesses.

I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com to find articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

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Transforming HR and IT from “Wayward Children” to Drivers of Business Success

It is my belief that sound human resource (HR) and information technology (IT) practices are capable of driving organizational success. Yet my observation and experience indicate that far too many HR and IT departments do not even come close to realizing this capability. My contention is that organization executives enable mediocre performance by failing to challenge HR and IT to live up to their respective potential.
Though others certainly can “claim” a share of the blame, the top decision-makers are the ones who consistently have tolerated behavior and results that fall far short of the mark.

I can make the case that HR personally touches every individual in the organization. As a result, the HR function is uniquely positioned to direct employee performance toward organizational goals. Yet how often does this happen? Similarly, I can make the case that the work done by IT departments can or does affect all areas of an organization. Given the potential for technology to increase productivity and profitability by making processes and systems more effective and efficient, IT seems a logical choice when searching for ways to achieve organizational goals. Yet one sees the same kind of complaints from CIOs as one does from HR executives - e.g., they don’t understand the value that we can bring to the organization. Why the sharp discrepancy between the promise and the reality of HR’s and IT’s contributions to organizational success?

The analogy that comes to mind is that of wayward youths whose failure to live up to their potential begins with a lack of, or ineffective, parental control and guidance. This lack of direction and development enables the youths to squander their talents and pick up bad habits. Why is it so surprising, then, that the wayward youths grow up to be wayward adults? Similarly, why are people surprised to find that HR and IT are behaving as wayward children, given that they essentially have been “raised” that way?

For the same reasons that talented children to go astray, HR and IT departments fail to live up to their potential. Here are just a few suggestions of how executives can stop enabling HR’s and IT’s mediocre performance and start challenging these areas to live up to their respective potential as drivers of business success:

  • Provide effective guidance, direction, and support from the executive level
  • Establish and communicate clear expectations
  • Identify clear, measurable pictures of “success”
  • Provide the necessary tools for successful outcomes
  • Hold HR and IT accountable for achieving the stated outcomes
  • Provide and enforce consequences for non-performance
  • Re-define the roles of HR and IT to highlight their contributions to organizational success

What actions will you take today to stop these wayward behaviors in your organization and support business success?

To read the full length version of this article, which includes additional suggestions for aligning HR’s and IT’s talents with their performance, please see my article Transforming HR and IT from “Wayward Children” to Drivers of Business Success on my web site.

 

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How to Help HR and IT Drive Business Success

Here is a framework you can use to help your human resource (HR) and information technology (IT) functions begin to live up to their potential to drive business success.

Step 1: Choose one business outcome and describe in detail what it “looks” like.

For example, if you choose “exceptional customer service,” ask yourself questions like these:

  • What must our customers see, hear, feel, taste, smell in order to believe they have experienced this level of service?
  • What are our employees doing to provide this outcome?
  • What technical support enables this outcome?

Step 2: Identify specifically what you need employees and systems to do in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • In what specific behaviors must employees engage?
  • How will we know when we have achieved exceptional customer service?
  • In what ways can technology make our customer-related processes more effective?
  • How will we know technology’s contribution to this outcome?

Step 3: Actively champion your HR and IT staff to enable them to provide the support needed to achieve the desired outcome.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What expectations do I have of HR and IT?
  • How have I communicated those expectations?
  • How am I contributing to the development of our employees’ talents?
  • What is one thing that, if done today, would enable HR to move the organization forward in a major way?
  • What is one thing that, if done today, would enable IT to move the organization forward in a major way?

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Play to Your Strengths

Are you developing and nurturing your talents? By “talents” I mean the things that you are really good at doing and come naturally, such as drawing or writing, relating to others, coming up with innovative ideas, or being able to “translate” technical terms into everyday language. You are at your best when you engage in those talents. The question is, how much time do you spend strengthening them?

My observation is that in most aspects of life – i.e., work, school, home – we are taught to focus on shoring up our weaknesses instead of reinforcing our strengths. We try to live up to others’ expectations of who or what we should be, for example, even when doing so means we have to struggle with things that do not come naturally. Or we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves based on the “improve your weaknesses” conditioning to which we have been subjected.

A friend who is working on her Ph.D. described the struggle she was having with a mandatory statistics class. Even though she has a talent for working with numbers, she just wasn’t “getting” statistics, so this perceived shortcoming was very frustrating. She spent weeks trying to understand the subject and even hired a tutor to help her. These efforts were taking a heavy toll on other parts of her life, not to mention on her self-esteem. Yet she vowed, “I’m going to master statistics if it kills me!” My reply was, “Why would you want to do that? All you need to do is learn enough about statistics to pass the course. You don’t like statistics and you’re making yourself miserable by pursuing mastery of it. Why not take that energy and focus it on aspects of numbers you are good at and love?”

In what areas of your life are you trying to master a weakness instead of strengthening a talent? I challenge you to do two things: (1) choose one talent and focus on improving it; and (2) identify one weakness and let it go by deciding that it’s good enough as is. Then pay attention to the quality of your life. Once you stop struggling to overcome your weaknesses and start honoring your talents, I predict your life will be easier, more enjoyable, and more joy-filled.

 

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Date of Publication: April, 2008
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch