Instead of strategy being a dry, periodic planning exercise for the few, it becomes a dynamic and continuous act of co-creation enriched by the many. - J.C. Spender

— Strategic Talk: Getting The Most Out Of The HR Department

What if your company hired a team of budding entrepreneurs brimming with the ideas and practical knowhow to propel you to the top of your field?

Now what if I were to say that your company already did, and they are sitting in the people operations department right now?

That’s the thrust behind an inspiring book written by research professor, and former Rolls Royce and IBM account manager, J.C. Spender and seven-figure generating entrepreneur and consultant Bruce Strong. The book is called ‘Strategic Conversations: Creating and Directing the Entrepreneurial Workforce‘ and, as the title suggests, it’s all about how management and staff communicate with one another.

The Problem With Management

Spender and Strong unearth an eloquent quote from Peter Drucker to kick off their introduction.

According to Drucker, much of management is about making it difficult for people to work. This accusation is chiefly levelled at the kind of top-down management that creates dry strategies full of knowledge gaps and imposes it onto a silent and compliant workforce who forge ahead in implementing the strategies, knowing they are ultimately doomed to fail.

How many times have you experienced an unwise directive from above and tried to challenge it only to be met by a wall of indifference or those classic words, ‘don’t shoot the messenger‘?

However, forward-thinking businesses are beginning to wake up to the fact that the old approach is not working, and that the source of real innovation is in utilising the largely untapped knowledge, experience and energy that exists in the workforce. But the command and control mindset is a tough one for an organisation to shake off entirely, so what can the downtrodden HR entrepreneur do to bring their ideas to the attention of the company’s decision-makers?

Strategic Conversations In The HR Department

Clearly, the first priority for an entrepreneur in the HR department is to make themselves heard. And this is not solely for the benefit of the company.

Spender and Strong explain the harsh reality of a ruthlessly efficient global marketplace which will see companies that do not  engage with their employees swept aside.

And saying ‘I told you so,’ is little consolation for the former employee on the labour scrapheap!

It is also important to plant your entrepreneurial seeds in fertile soil. If your immediate line manager is deaf to your input, seek out another member of the management team or an influential stakeholder. Your suggestions should be solution-focused (not simply highlighting mistakes and problems) and practical. If a manager can see a way in which your ideas could be implemented and measured, they are more likely to use them. You will also start to attract a reputation as someone who can be called upon upon when developing company strategy.

While the authors of Strategic Conversations admit that workplaces are complex and full of uncertainty, with no one right way to run them, their chief message of respectful, creative conversation requires only a willingness for management and staff to engage in meaningful dialogue whereby the employees’ latent skills and unique knowledge are harnessed and directed.

Spender and Strong explain that such conversations arise spontaneously in the ‘wild‘ and are more effective than management strategies such as brainstorming and suggestion boxes.

© New To HR


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