Should HR be disruptive?

We live in an age of disruption. There is no doubt about that. New business models pop up and challenge or even obliterate the old ones. Standing still has never been an option, but now everything seems to accelerate. The speed of change is accelerating. They tell us the world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. And they are right.
So as companies are facing disruption, they face another reality. The world around them changes, almost overnight. And it happens outside. It is difficult if not impossible  to disrupt oneself. Sure, there are examples of companies that tried to disrupt the very markets they are in. For that they do need to disrupt themselves, or at least try to. Most companies fail at that. And why? Because it is extremely difficult to forget about what you know and what you care for.

It is extremely difficult to forget about what you know and what you care for.

Kodak could not see the value of digital photography, which it has invented. Xerox invented many things, but Apple ran away with many of their inventions. The travel industry was disrupted by and Airbnb. Which industry is next? And how do you cope with disruption?

The compost heap

The answer lies with the people. And if we talk about people we talk about the department or process once called HR. It’s not HR that should disrupt. It’s HR that should help people to cope with disruption (if they see it) and help organisations evolve faster. Should HR teach people how to be disruptive. Not really. I don’t think it can be taught. Every heap of compost needs some worms turn the natural waste into fertile soil. So if HR cannot be the worm, it can make sure the worms are at least tolerated within the organization. And do pardon me the comparison between people who innovate and bring oxygen and the worm.
Also for HR the world is changing rapidly. If HR sticks to a role of compliance, janitor, … it will not disrupt but be disrupted. If HR evolves towards the keeper of the compost heap, creating a fertile environment together with all people involved, it will succeed. For that it needs to disrupt some of its own practices.
And if it wants to disrupt some of its practices, it cannot do it alone, but together with its partners. In this sense, HR is business. Business is HR.
It’s a mistake to think that it’s only HR that is conservative. Many leaders demand structure, control, containment. And they look at HR to do it. So if HR wants to be disruptive, it needs to be in a disruptive environment. HR becomes the worm in the heap. Being disruptive to itself is as difficult for HR, as it is for an organisation. So kill your darlings if necessary. But do not do it alone.

Togetherness and Awareness

And to all those (HR) leaders who want to survive in a disruptive world: rest assure that the disruption does not come from you. It comes from them. Leading in a disruptive world has more to do with togetherness and awareness, then with being directive, or being a hero. Create disruption together with others, cope with it together with others.

Je suis Charlie is appalled by the attack on charlie hebdo yesterday in Paris, France.
We pay tribute to people who used their writing and drawing talent to express an opinion. Freedom of speech is a value that is inherent in a democratic society. You do not have to agree, but you can agree to disagree.
Je suis Charlie.
We pay our respects to the family and friends of the people who were assassinated. They will be missed.

A little bit of Anecdote

Don’t you love an anecdote? It spices up a story. It shows so much truth. It creates relief, confirmation, … They often generate emotion. A life without anecdotes is dull. It’s very human to use an anecdote in conversations and in reasoning. The former is harmless. The latter has never helped anyone. An anecdote works like a sedative. It makes you numb. If you use it for reasoning and decision-making you can get into a lot of trouble. Why is that?
First, anecdotal reasoning does not take into consideration the available information. It’s the one story that you notice and that’s relevant. Take complaints. If you react to one complaint, you might think that the service your company is providing is bad. The specific outrage of a customer might make you think the worst. But you need to look at the whole picture, not at the anecdote Imagine that you have 1000 people dealing with customer service every day, reaching 20 customers a day. That’s about 4,5 million interactions per year. So if Mr X complains, that’s an anecdote. I agree, you need to take the complaint seriously. But the complaint might be a coincidence, or an acceptable deviation from quality. If you base your decisions on this one complaint, you might be in trouble. Statistics not only help you to put things into perspective, but also look for the root causes of what might cause the anecdotally retrieved information.
Second, anecdotal reasoning can lead to harmful decisions. Why did Steve Jobs go for alternative treatment of his cancer? We all think we are special, that we can beat something. We may know people who have been helped by the treatment, so it must be helpful. We seem to neglect that the one who tells the anecdotal story, might have an interest in it. Or you never know about the context of the anecdote.

“Alcohol is bad for you. But my neighbour drinks a lot and he is very much alive. So alcohol cannot be that bad”

Anecdotes in Business

Business is full of anecdotes. And we all savour them. But is it possible that we use anecdotal reasoning in times of 6 Sigma, big data, analytics, … Of course it is. And even more, anecdotes play a great role in daily decision-making. Because it’s natural. Statistical reasoning is less common in business then we think. Like people are able to take health care decisions based on an anecdote, business leaders are able to use the anecdote for decision-making. And what more than a sampling of anecdotes is an audit?

How to avoid anecdotal reasoning

This blog is a plea to integrate more statistical reasoning into business. Here’s how can you do that.

  1. Hire people with analytical and statistical skills. Change the mix of people in your company.
  2. Ask people with statistical and analytical skills to think with you. It’s important that you invite them to look at your decision in a more scientific, evidence-oriented way.
  3. Be very transparent about your reasoning. Explain how you got to your conclusion or decision. Be open for debate.
  4. Ask yourself the question on what you have based your decision. Is it your intuition? Was it an anecdote? Should there be no statistical evidence be involved, go out and get it.
  5. If someone is selling you something, go for the statistics behind it. If you are confronted with opaque selling, back off.
  6. Listen to dissident voices. They help you to formulate and test different hypotheses.
  7. Ask questions. If you use anecdotes as basis for reasoning, you might find yourself not asking the necessary questions. If you ask questions, you will find that your anecdotes do not deliver the answers you need.
  8. Develop the reflex to check your reaction to anecdotes. Business leaders are people who react to anecdotes like any other person.
  9. Look for data. Think about the relevance of the sample you base your decision on. This is valid in all business contexts and functions. Become a statistician.
  10. Analyze the data before taking decisions. When general Custer heard that many of Indians gathered at Little Big Horn, he chose to ride with 250 men to find himself confronted to 10 times that many Indians. He made a mistake.

Is there room for intuition? From foresight to insight.

Of course there is room for intuition. Intuition is a great help. It creates foresight. But foresight alone is not enough. Statistical reasoning gives us insight. Anecdotes can be the trigger to curiosity and to reasoning. But when reasoning is restricted to dealing with anecdotes there’s a big risk. Anecdotes can help you, but the help is limited. If you’re not careful anecdotical reasoning might be risky. Statistics are seen as an antidote against the anecdote. But a little bit of anecdote is OK.

Resilience, the ultimate mindset for change ?

Resilience is relatively new in the change management – vocabulary.
Kurt Lewin has developed a traditional model for explaining change. His model is known as “Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze”. It explains the three stages of any change process.
Lewin uses the metaphor of an ice block. If you have a large cube of ice but want a cone,  what do you do? First you melt the ice to make it amenable to change (unfreeze). Then you mold the iced water into the shape you want (change). Finally, you solidify the new shape (refreeze).

Ice and water, the first two steps of Lewin's model (resilience)
Ice and water, the first two steps of Lewin’s model (resilience)

  • In “unfreeze” you will feel loss, regret or grief.
  • “Change ” is an in-between time. You will feel uncertainty, confusion, and questioning. You are out of your comfort zone. You can’t see a path forward.
  • In “refreeze” you move into a new beginning. It’ a time of energy and excitement. Here the future becomes clearer.

Continuous change.

Today, there is no  “refreeze” anymore. We are continuously in the middle phase. The change phase.
Or you could say these 3 phases continuously repeat themselves very quickly. You can hardly see any cubes or cones in these cycles. The only constant is change.

Managing continuous change ?

Can continuous change be managed ?
A lot of leaders try to do so.
They develop change overviews. They spread change over consecutive quarters of the business year. Green, orange and red indicate how concrete changes on the field are corresponding to the change goals.
They appoint a project leader, responsible for implementing the change. The project leader sets up a change team. The change team does all that needs to done. Or it makes sure other people will. The team wants to guarantee that the change gets implemented.
Of course there’s also the “human” side of change. People will not always like or agree when leaders declare that the change is done. People need to be listened to, given attention and coached. Certainly when change becomes very tough on the emotional side.
I’m convinced that all these initiatives are necessary. I’m also convinced they approach change as something that will “stop” someday, after the project ends. At that moment a “new” period of rest and stability will start. Someday the last topic on the change overview will indeed turn into green. The change project will formally be declared “completed”. The day after however, a new change will present itself.
You need more than just some management models, to keep on doing this. Every human has his/her limits.
You need resilience. You need resilience. But what is resilience ?


Resilience allows you to return to the original state. It’s about you, not the organisation. After being stretched, compressed or bent. Resilience allows you to recover from adversity. Developing resilience is highly desirable in today’s world.
In his book Resilience “Managing at the speed of change”, Daryl R. Conner outlines five characteristics of resilient people. They are positive, focused, flexible, organized, proactive.

    • Positive

      Resilient people are optimistic and self-assured. They perceive life as complex but filled with opportunities. Optimists believe defeat is temporary. Its causes are not their fault, but rather due to unfortunate circumstances. Pessimists believe defeat will last for a long time. They blame someone, including themselves.

    • Focused

      Focus means having a clear vision of what you want to do. Focused people write down their goals and describe obstacles. They focus on the strategies they will use to find solutions for problems.

    • Flexible

      Flexible people are adaptable to uncertainty. They name their fears when facing new and intimidating situations.

    • Organized

      Organized people approach ambiguity in a structured way. They creatively plan, carefully set priorities and engage in deliberate action steps.

    • Proactive

      Being proactive means you engage change and not defend against it. Proactive people take the offense and not the defense. They take calculated risks. They apply lessons learned from experiences, to similar challenges facing them.

Developing resilience

Years of research into the nature of resilience have created a solid understanding of it. And how it develops. To develop your resilience, here are some key qualities to develop. (Inspired by Al Siebert)

  • A playful curiosity. Ask lots of questions. Play with new developments. Wonder about things, experiment, make mistakes, get hurt, laugh. “What is different now ? What if I did this ?”
  • Constantly learning from experience: assimilate quickly new or unexpected experiences. Facilitate being changed by them. “What is the lesson here ? What early clues did I ignore ? The next time that happens I will…”
  • Quick Adaptation. Be mentally and emotionally very flexible. Be comfortable with contradictory personal qualities. Be strong and gentle, sensitive and tough, logical and intuitive. Be calm and emotional, serious and playful, and so forth. The more the better.
  • A Solid self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It determines how much you learn after something goes wrong. It allows you to receive praise and compliments. It acts as a buffer against hurtful statements. While being receptive to constructive criticism. “I like, appreciate, and love myself.”
  • Good friendships and loving relationships. People are more stress resistant and are less likely to get sick when they have a loving family and good friendships. Loners are more vulnerable to distressing conditions. Talking with friends and family diminishes the impact of difficulties and increases feelings of self-worth and self-confidence.
  • Honest expression of feelings and emotions . Express anger, love, dislike, appreciation, grief, etc… Do it honestly and openly.
  • High tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Being able to work without a job description, is a good role model of professionalism. Bring stability to crises and chaos. “How can I interact with this so that things turn out well for all of us ?”
  • Empathic reading of others. See things through the perspectives of others, even antagonists. Win/win/win attitude in conflicts. “What do others think and feel ? What is it like to be them ? How do they experience me ? What is legitimate about what they feel, say, and do ?”
  • Use intuition. Accept intuition as a valid, useful source of information. “What is my body telling me ? Did that daydream mean anything ? Why don’t I believe what I’m being told ? What if I did this ?”
  • Have a talent for serendipity. Learning lessons in the school of life is the antidote to feeling victimized. Convert emotionally toxic situations into emotionally nutritious. Convert misfortune into good luck and gain strength from adversity.

“I would never choose to go through anything like that again, but it was the one of best things that ever happened to me.”

When you can imagine this quote coming from you, you are probably developing your own resilience very well.

Being resilient

You need more than resilience to get the change done. Resilience needs some management skills as well. There is nothing wrong with that. Continuous change will make you aware that managing it is key during your career. Resilience will  make you successful in it. Without getting desperate, without negativity. Resilience will help to avoid this trap.

Social Media: 8 integrated benefits of actively using them (part 1)

social media

Social Media

Over the last months I’ve had a lot of conversations with colleagues and friends about the use of social media. I am a frequent and active user of LinkedIn and Twitter. And I like to challenge my environment (including myself) on the purpose of using social media. Or even about the ways they are using their social media channels, if any.

Wir haben es nicht getweet, but perhaps we should have ?

I have received various reactions. Please find here some examples:

  • It gives me stress: it comes above all other things i have to do
  • I cannot imagine my life without it any more
  • I truly don’t see the added value of tweeting how my cat is doing
  • I find it very inspiring to share and converse with so many people
  • All those updates… i can’t follow any more
  • Especially the groups on LinkedIn offer very rich content and interaction
  • What’s the purpose of sharing and liking an update thousand times ?
  • I really do not understand what all these people are doing on social media, I have a tweet account, but i never tweet. Am i missing anything ?
  • I wouldn’t want to miss some valuable tweet streams on certain events.


Be + Active

First of all, I think it’s absolutely not necessary to “be” on social media. If you are, I recommend that you are because you’ve chosen to be. Just like you also make choices on how to organise, channel and inspire your relations in the “real” world.
Why do you like and choose to go to certain events, to diners, to lunches, to seminars, to read books, to chat, to be in think tanks, etc… ?
“Ah, because…”
Well, people who are on social media ideally also have their concrete “because”. We might call this their purpose to be on social media.
Secondly, if you choose to be on social media, be active. This is perfectly comparable with “real” events. They are a complete waste of time if you go there and do not talk to anybody.
So how can one be active on social media? There are various ways. This blog is not an inventory of the technical possibilities. That would be a course, not a blog. There are 8 benefits you can easily generate for your business and your personal life. You just need to use some aspects of LinkedIn and Twitter. That’s why I talk about “integrated” benefits. They work for both your personal and your professional life.

  1. Sharing
  2. The value of sharing how your cat is doing may not always be of high value on LinkedIn or Twitter. Sharing interesting content however is usually highly appreciated by your network and tweeps. You can share both your own content and content of others. Ideally you share both.
    Sharing posts that have already enjoyed a great deal of shares, likes, retweets and comment is not ideal. It’s better to do some research yourself. Or why would you not write yourself and share that content. That is certainly a good idea.

  3. Conversing and connecting
  4. A better name for Twitter would be “Converser”. Twitter is an extremely efficient medium to converse. You use it not only to converse with people you already know. It’s more important to encounter people you don’t personally know. The basis of these encounters are shared interests. Next to twitter, groups on LinkedIn offer a great opportunity to converse and interact with known and unknown people. You can launch topics and questions yourself or you can react on the ones already posted by other members.
    Doing so, a kind of social media fabric emerges. That’s a group of people you may not have personally met yet, but with whom you feel connected through common interest.

  5. Stay up to date
  6. By reading shared content and by conversing about it, chances are that you’ll be up to date with recent evolutions on certain topics. And if you really want to be sure, ask on Twitter or in a relevant group on LinkedIn a question like: “I am interested in learning about the most recent insights in #yourtopic”
    You will receive feedback, retweets, comments, links to blogs, to white papers, etc… in no time.
    If you want to stay ahead on how an event or a trending topic is evolving, there’s probably a “hashtag” (a key word indicated with #) you can follow. If you want to stay ahead about all that is related to #upcomingelections, you can very easily follow the tweet stream on that subject through that hashtag.

  7. Learn
  8. When you have a bit more time, you can take the occasion to take it further and start a learning process. Social media are very effective to learn more in detail about certain topics.
    I have been active in groups for many years and since two years I am actively moderating two in particular: Employee Engagement and ICF Team and Group Coaching.
    It is really encouraging to see the thorough and sometimes almost scientific discussions in these groups. And the fun part of them is their format. It’s like reading a book with a lot of dialogues. This is in general is more inviting to read than a white paper.
    — End of part 1
    Soon I will publish the 2nd part of this blog with 4 more benefits:

    • Inspire/Get inspired
    • Community building
    • In real life encounters and partnerships
    • Return towards your own business

    And now, I am going to tweet this blog 😉

Leadership, Music, Audiences

This piece is about music, audiences and leadership. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Frank Barrett, who compared organizations to Jazz. The essence of Jazz is its improvisation. Barrett (1998) described seven characteristics of Jazz improvisation and has made the link with organizational learning and management. (
In this blog I want to discuss the importance of the audience and the link to leadership.
Jazz & audiences
Years ago I was at a concert of the Gino Latucca Quartet (which was at the time a Quintet), a Belgian Jazz combo. They played in a Jazz pub called “De Versteende Nacht” in my hometown of Bruges. I went there with friends who did not particularly like Jazz. For them it was shere torture. So after the second set they asked me, urged me or begged me to leave the place. I remember that they played lengthy solos. Not all of it was brilliant, but there was some good stuff. It occurred to me that maybe playing Jazz was more fun than listening to it. And much depends on the tolerance that the audience has for the improvisation. So this entails a risk. What if you are so immersed in improvisation that you are losing the audience?
Musicians do not necessarily need the audience to play music. They find meaning in the process of playing music itself. More, many musicians say that they forget about the audience when playing. When playing music you can get immersed completely without any audience and you might end up toying with your instrument for a lengthy time. It might be a good thing that no audience is around when this happened.
My first Jazz concert I attended to was in 1985. Philippe Cathérine was playing with the late bass player Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (NHOP, the Dane with the never ending name). I was stunned. For me as a 16-year old boy – this was a discovery. I had never heard anything like it. The freedom of playing, the taking turns of solos, the apparent easiness with which was played, the licks, … Coming home after that experience I ran immediately to the old piano we had at home to try some of it. It was inspirational although the music I played stunk. What I had also noticed during that concert was that there were some members in the audience who were also so immersed in the music that it was like if they were in a trance. They were imitating the guitar, and the drums, like if it were they who played. At that time it made me smile. Now I realize they were synchronizing and they went into flow together with the musicians.
Check out

But what happens if this doesn’t happen? Suppose that you as a musician do not have listeners because you’re way off from what they are used to hear or what they prefer? What happens if your customers do not follow you? Check the scene from the movie Back to the Future where Marty McFly starts to play hardrock, more than 30 years before the genre had been invented

Funny to see how the audience is bewildered. Artists might not care too much about that. They produce art for its own sake. So will they not compromise?
Sometimes they will have to change and adapt to what the audience wants. So even great artists have played in bars or tea-rooms in order to make a living. Johannes Brahms for one played popular music in bars when he was young just to make a living. He had to play popular music in order to survive. This did not prevent him from producing some of the finest music ever written. Sometimes musicians lend themselves to something which must be awful for them.
So there’s an issue. Suppose that you only can reach an audience by playing things you don’t want to play. Or vice-versa that hardly anyone shows up when you play what you want to play ? Where’s the meaningfulness in that? Like I said, musicians do not need an audience to play music.
But good musicians choose what they play, whom they play it with. They will apply to play in great orchestras or combos because of their reputation, their musical leader. In the music world there are conductors who attract talent just because of what they do, what they stand for. These orchestras have an audience because of the performance of those musicians (I admit there is some snobbery in music as well, a been there – have you seen me mentality). And they will have an audience.
An example from the classical music scene: end of april 2011 I saw Philippe Jarousky in a concert with L’Arpeggiata. Now for those of you who do not know Philippe Jaroussky, he’s a French contra tenor who is conquering the classical. L’Arpeggiata is a Baroque orchestra that experiments with old music combining it with some other styles. So it could well be that you hear a Jazz bass line in a baroque music piece. What happens? Fellow musicians detest it. They say that you have to stick to the rules, that it is not done to be eclectic. Vivaldi did not use those bass lines. You have to stick to what has been intended. No messing around with that kind of music. It’s sacrilege.
However, the audience loves it. What they’re doing is not so spectacular, but it sounds great, it surprises, it makes you laugh. The audience has a good feeling when they leave the music hall. So there’s a way of producing some of the finest music ever written with othere ingredients and you get something new.
Check out :
Good musicians do not need to make compromises and they will reach their audiences. In the case of Jazz or classical music this audience might be smaller. Popular music reaches larger crowds. In the case of the smaller crowd, the risk exists that the musician forgets about his audience and that he plays for himself. When I played contemporary music for the recorder I noticed that playing the music was much more pleasant than listening to it. One of the concerts I remembered the most was a concert by the cello player Arne Deforce. I don’t exactly remember what he had played, but it was a very modern piece of music that sounded awful to my untrained ears. The musical director of the concertgebouw in Brugge got so excited about it that he jumped on stage after the performance, applauding the musicians and then he announced proudly that Arne Deforce had agreed to play the same piece again, since you need to listen to modern music more than once to understand it. He might have been right, but I ran out of the concert hall not willing to undergo such an ordeal again.
check out

You have to know that he is one of the most acclaimed modern cello players. But he does not compromise on stage.
So what about leaders? Do leaders compromise? Yes they might. Do they do what is expected ? They do. But they will not compromise on the target that needs to be achieved. They will however leave a lot of space to the members of their team. True leaders will not tell team members how to achieve the objective but be surprised by the improvisation of their team.
Once I’ve met a conductor of a classical orchestra who compared leadership in a company to being a conductor. He had the orchestra play a beautiful work by Mendelsohn and showed how his way of conducting affected the quality of the performance. When I asked him the question what would happen if one of the musicians should not agree with his musical vision and if he would be open to discuss different views with that musician, the answer was a little disappointing. He argued that the time for a rehearsal is too precious and expensive so that he did not want to loose time on that. Musicians had to fit in or stay out.
I believe many organisations are run like a classical orchestra, centered on the conductor. If we would take more of Jazz orchestra’s characteristics we might unleash much more energy and come to an even higher achievement.
But what about the audience? The audience of a classical orchestra is usually satisfied, unless the performance was absolutely mediocre. The music is accessible, it is of a high sophistication, they might have played a work that you are familiar with and the performance might resemble the performance by another orchestrat on a CD you have. Usually there are no surprises and you can enjoy a highly aesthetic experience. With a Jazz performance you can be thrilled but you also have a chance of being disappointed. Why is that ? Because Jazz musicians take risks. They need to be very skillful and in spite of that they might get it wrong. But they look for new ways of playing, for new variations.
Every musician has had performances during which the notes just did not come out right. So like with any kind of music you’d need an audience that can appreciate the challenges of the music, and in Jazz you need to be able to appreciate the improvisations.
So you do play for an audience. And so do leaders. Their audience is their customer base, their employees and other stakeholders (shareholders, government, …). The companies they lead provide goods and services that should appeal to their audience. So good leaders will play the music their audience like, but they will not play for any audience. And they will also select the musicians they need to play the music they want in order to reach the audience they want.
To some, Jazz music is horrible. To others baroque music is boring. And others cannot understand why thousands of people listen to pop or rock music.So if your audience doesn’t like Jazz, do not play it. But if you like to play Jazz, look for a company that has Jazz lovers as an audience. And if you want to unleash people’s potential you might need to think more like a Jazz-leader.The metaphor provided by Barrett is very powerful and inspirational. It’s worth exploring more. In a next blog I’ll discuss the musical leader and his musicians.
Barett, F. (1998). Creativity and Improvisation and Organizations: Implications for organizational Learning. Organization Science, 9, nr 5, pp. 605-622.

MOOCs: a revolution in learning or just another try?

MOOC stands for Massive Online Open Course. It’s a way of providing learning content to the “masses” through the internet. The access one has to recent high level content seems to be without boundaries. MOOCs have the potential of slashing social and geographical barriers. People can learn whatever they want on whatever topic. They can learn whenever they want. And they can adapt the pace of learning. It only takes access to the internet. This might be an issue in some parts of the world.
In order to have some idea of what I am writing about, check this list.
It’s not the first time that initiatives like this have been undertaken. Not many of these were a big success. Maybe the easy access of MOOCS combined with participative learning through social media will  change the odds. Another disadvantage is that the courses do not provide academic credit. This is related to the aberrant insistance on diplomas instead of experience and learning. MOOCs can open up the world to many people, but it will not open up the job market in many countries. For that, you still need to register and pay.

Paradise after the Storm

The current state of the world is often compared with turbulence in the atmosphere, a storm. The Flemish political philosopher has written an essay, or should I say a pamphlet, with the title “A paradise blows from the storm” (Een paradijs waait uit de storm). The title refers to a phrase by the German social critic Walter Benjamin, describing Angelus Novus, a painting by Paul Klee:
The face of the angel of history is turned toward the past. Where we perceived a chain of events, he sees a single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistably propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. The storm is what we call progress.
File:Klee, Angelus novus.png
Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, 1920
Oil transfer and watercolor on paper
Decreus argues that only resistance is truly democratic. The current organisation of democracy is to him an elective aristocracy because access to mandates is reserved to an elite and elections usually lead to re-elections of the same elites. But the question is against what one should resist. Decreus argues that the predominance of the market ideology is in itself totalitarian. Moreover it is based on selfishness and assumes that this individual selfishness will be benificary to the group as it allows individuals to experience pleasure and entrepreneurs to make a profit. Competitiveness leads to optimal solutions and creativity. But the market is not perfect and not egalitarian. And in this state, the market creates elites.
Decreus’ criticism on the free markets is not new. And he is right that the free market needs corrections. He is also right when he states that the inequality that has been created is harming the general interest. But these arguments are hardly new. Decreus returns to the foundations of democracy and quotes from the writings of Plato and Aristoteles and describes the Polis or political system as a way to go beyond selfishness and allow people to achieve a higher level of being. For that, inequality cannot be too big. This adagium has been repeated by many in the past 2000 years. John Rawls (1990) defines justice as fairness, which is an even access to resources and corrective measures if this access is not general. Joseph Stiglitz (2012) makes a brilliant analysis of the price of inequality and he comes with a plan.
Decreus does not come with a plan. He says that a philosopher should not solve problems, but reframe them or create new ones. This is quite apalling as a statement from someone who criticizes the current situation and belittles recent initiatives to strive for a more participative or deliberative democracy.
So after reading this essay, the question remains. How to realize progress? How to learn from the current storm(s) ? Resistance against what exactly? In Europe there is a corrected market ideology. There are redistributive systems. In many countries there is a minimum wage (I am still puzzled by the fact that Germany has no minimum wage). Unions exist and collective bargaining is part of the organization of the labour market. Employers increasingly focus on the human side of enterprise and strive to create societal value.
The current storm to me is not a storm of a crumbling ideology, a failure of the free market. It’s a leadership crisis. It’s based on greed. And Decreus argues that the ideology of the free market gets out the worst in people. This is not necessarily true. If there are bad human characteristics, they will be present in all ideologies and human systems. Horrible things have happened in the name of any ideology or religion: crusades in the name of Catholicism, genocide in the name of racial suppremacy (fascism), organised famins in the planned economy of the Soviet Union (Communism), … Any human organisation is not free of “sin” and in all systems elites have abused their power but in all systems elites have been around.
This is just an observation. Maybe an elite is a human characteristic, whatever the nature of the elite (religious, economic, political, …). But there is no reason for an elite to not accept something like the general interest. So the economy is a part of society and should not be treated seperately. So I agree with Decreus that state and economy are not to be divided. But I see no answer in Decreus’ pamphlet.
So far there hasn’t been any civilization that has reached a moral equilibrium that has eradicated immoral behaviour. Only cooperation and leadership could solve that. And I guess the trip towards interdependence and moral equilibrium will be eternal. So the paradise after the storm will remain utopian, but nevertheless desirable.
So even when I agree that crisis (storm) is the basis for progress (after the great flood of 1953 the Netherlands build dams to avoid this kind of disaster), I find Decreus’ analysis quite reductory. As if only resistance is the key to progress. The base of progress is leadership and cooperation. This leadership and cooperation can be anywhere, at any level. And acts of leadership or cooperation do not have to be against something, can be found in various cohabitating ideological systems or can be neutral. And I do see a new world of we arriving (cfr previous blog), in which everyone can play a part, even philosophers, through cooperation and leadership.
Decreus, Thomas (2013). Een Paradijs waait uit de Storm. Over markt, democratie en verzet. Berchem, Epo.
Rawls, John (1990). A theory of Justice.
Stiglitz, Joseph (2012). The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future. W.W. Norton & Company.
Source of the picture:,_Angelus_novus.png

HRM is a process, not a function

HRM is een proces
Het eerste wat we voor ogen moeten houden is dat HRM helemaal geen functie hoort te zijn, maar een proces. De specifieke functies die gealloceerd zijn in een traditionele HR-afdeling, hebben enkel als doel dat proces te faciliteren. Te vaak wil HR een bastion zijn, waar de macht gebaseerd is op compliance en systemen. Beter is te focussen op de toegevoegde waarde en het mensbeleid te integreren in de business. Dit geldt trouwens ook voor andere functies zoals marketing, finance, IT.
Soms noem ik dat de “verkaveling” van HRM: het delen van de verantwoordelijkheid voor het mensbeleid met de volledige business. Alleen zo kun je de doelstellingen van een mensbeleid realiseren.
Is een Afdeling nog nodig?
Als HRM een proces is, is de vraag of een HRM-afdeling nog nodig is niet ver weg. De kritiek op de HRBP-functie is duidelijk: een onduidelijke rol. De kritiek van Bersin is terecht. HRBPs worden vaak gebruikt als manusje-van-alles. Voor mij is een HRBP de expert op people matters binnen de business met als doel ervoor te zorgen dat de factor mens zodanig beheerd wordt dat de doelstellingen van de organisatie – en ook die van de mensen – beheerd worden.
Een HRBP integreert people reflexes in de organisatie. Als het goed loopt zal de HRBP eerder een coach zijn, dan een puur inhoudelijk expert. De technische expertise moet elders in (of buiten) de organisatie aanwezig zijn. Dat loopt niet steeds goed en dat heeft vaak ook te maken met een tekort aan competentie bij de leiding gevenden.
Soms zeg ik wel eens dat HRBPs er zijn als prothese, om de ontbrekende skills te compenseren. Is het dan voldoende om leiding gevenden de nodige skills te geven. Zal de HRBP dan overbodig worden? Misschien. In elk geval heb ik een groot respect voor de vele HRBPs die het mensbeleid bij hun interne klanten opbouwen en vaak geconfronteerd worden met een (te) grote diversiteit aan vragen.
Vandaag geloof ik zeer sterk in een tandem tussen CEO en CPO. De core van HRM wordt meer en meer leadership. HR heeft als doel het leiderschap binnen organisaties te verstevigen. Om een mensbeleid te voeren is men ook afhankelijk van de sterkte van de leiding gevenden. Leiderschap kan zeer breed gedefinieerd worden. Daar valt dan ook Talent onder. Hoeveel leiding gevenden houden zich actief met Talent Management bezig?
Ik definiëer leiderschap aan de hand van vijf eenvoudige maar pertinente principes.
1. Bouw vertrouwen
2. Creëer zinvolheid
3. Help mensen groeien
4. Zorg voor een context waar engagement mogelijk is
5. Zorg voor jezelf.
Ik noem dit duurzaam leiderschap, gebaseerd op karakter. Het HR-beleid moet zich richten op de realisatie van een leiderschapsmodel. Meer nog, het business model van HRM is leadership en organizational development.
Vergeet de administratie niet
We mogen niet vergeten dat aan de factor mens ook een (te) zware administratieve last hangt. Deze helaasheid is een realiteit en teveel tijd wordt opgeëist door deze administratieve last. Er bestaan landen waar de sociaal-juridische context veel eenvoudiger is dan in België. We moeten hiermee leven. Dankzij slimme tools, geoliede processen en het stimuleren van de zelfredzaamheid van managers en medewerkers kan deze administratieve last verminderd en gedeeld worden. Vergeet niet dat als de basis niet goed is, de rest bezwaarlijk ingang zal vinden.
Maatschappelijke waarde
Wat ik volledig mis in de beschouwingen van Bersin, is het streven naar een maatschappelijke rol van HRM. In het kader van duurzaam ondernemen is de factor “mens” één van de centrale aandachtspunten. Bedrijven zijn ook een actief bestanddeel van de arbeidsmarkt en kunnen door hun mensbeleid een actieve bijdrage leveren tot de werking van de arbeidsmarkt en de ontwikkeling van een duurzame inzetbaarheid van de eigen medewerkers. Met de maatschappelijke rol, naast de administratieve, de procesmatige, de strategische rol, bereikt HRM het summum van maturiteit.
Met heel wat aanbevelingen van Bersin kan ik leven. Zijn kritiek is evenwel de kritiek van iemand die aan de zijlijn staat. De ideale HR-structuur en -werking is iets wat we wel kunnen nastreven, maar nog even niet bereikt hebben. Er is dus nog werk(zekerheid) voor HRM.
Eventjes mijn aanbevelingen op een rijtje:
1. Zie HRM niet als een functie, maar als een organisatie-proces.
2. Focus niet op de afdeling, maar op de resultaten en toegevoegde waarde
3. Koppel het HRM-beleid aan het leiderschapsmodel
4. Zet de mens centraal en probeer niet andere management-functies te imiteren. Zie de factor mens als jouw expertise en zoek op basis daarvan een duidelijke toegevoegde waarde. Maak dingen mogelijk.
5. Beheer en reduceer de administratieve workload
6. Verwaarloos de ontwikkeling van de eigen HRM-medewerkers niet.
7. Laat de naam “Human Resources” – HRM vallen. Het is mensbeleid. Groei naar een maatschappelijk relevante rol.
Lesley Arens trok mijn aandacht op een artikel op P&O-actueel over wat allemaal moet veranderen bij HRM ( Het betreft een vertaling van een blog van Bersin ( Bedankt Lesley voor de uitnodiging om even over mijn beroep na te denken.