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James La Trobe-Bateman

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Why Is Catbert the Evil HR Director?

By | Impactology | No Comments

Why do we have so much difficulty believing in a huggable people person running Human Resources? 

Scott Adams’ Dilbert character Catbert is totally believable as the ‘Evil HR Director’. Robert Townsend wrote in his book ‘Up The Organization’ that you should fire the Personnel Department and at worst have a 1 person People department.  Instead, since 1970, the Personnel Department has morphed into Human Resources.  Not only that, but the boss of that department is seen as evil. The world has gone backwards.

Let’s try some ‘whys’.

Why do you need an HR director? To make sure you have the quality and quantity of employees you need, plus to administer all the regulations around employment.

Why are there regulations around employment? Because employers can’t be trusted to treat their employees fairly.

Why can’t the employer be trusted? Because their job is to maximize profits for the shareholders, not for the employees.  So they will tend to cut corners if they can get away with it.

Why does management think of shareholders first and employees second? Because that is their main responsibility.

Why do shareholders think they should have priority? Because that is the way the system is set up.

…and you can go on.

Let’s stop there with the thought that the ‘system’ is the problem.  Not Catbert.

The system needs to change. 

It’s tough changing systems. Nonetheless, some enlightened bosses take a different view.  Richard Branson famously said that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.  Since your revenue depends on customers, taking care of your employees will take care of revenues and hence the shareholders.

But this is only a part solution.

We are talking about a change to the system.  So, we must talk about the ‘system’ that the corporation exists within.

Part of that system is the community around the corporation’s physical presence.

Henry Mintzberg goes deeper. We should put the corporation in the context of the society in which it exists.  This is because it draws ‘resource’ from that environment and has an ‘impact’ on the community around them.  It is not ‘fair’ to consider the corporation in isolation.  In particular, he advocates for rebalancing in favor of the ‘Plural Society’: the part that is not Private and not Public. Meanwhile, the world seems to be going backwards when it comes to the way corporations are run. 

Isn’t time to turn the tide?

Sapiens and Neanderthals

Sapiens

By | Impactology, Productivity | No Comments

Sometimes you have to read a book for just one insight.


The critics might be divided on whether it is a good book, but that one insight makes it gold in your eyes. I wouldn’t have read ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, but for a good friend who recommended it. Then a few weeks later my brother gave me his copy and so I read it.


This was the insight.


Harari says that Homo Sapiens lived for many millennia alongside Neanderthals without immediately dominating them. So why did Sapiens become dominant? There seemed to be a number of environmental reasons. But what finally did it, he says, was Sapiens’ ability to co-operate with groups of people they did not know personally. If your influence is only with those you know, you are limited to about 150 people. When you co-operate with more, then your influence is far greater and your impact is far greater.


Sapiens succeeded over the Neanderthals because of their ability to spread common thinking beyond the immediate group. When you think the same, you act the same and so behave as a much larger cohesive and more powerful force. Who is more likely to prevail: 10 groups of 150 people who look superior but don’t have much in common with each other, or…1500 people who look inferior but think, talk and act in unison? We all know that power.


So how is this relevant to corporate life?


Well, how about ‘Standards’? There are formal ones, like ISO 9001. Or unspoken conventions, like cars having a steering wheel, the right hand pedal being for the fuel, the left hand pedal being for the brake. Imagine a world, where Fords had tiller steering, GM had a side joystick and the accelerator was on the dashboard? There is no question that the market in cars would not be as healthy as it is. Transport those standards to other countries, then you can sell your cars there. Plus you can find suppliers who can make components that will work for you better and cheaper. Everyone involved wins.


Co-operation with people you don’t know makes everyone’s life better. The impact of your ideas is far greater. In the case of Home Sapiens, it has led to dominance over the World.

How to Escape Catch-22

By | Attitude - Illogical Achieving, Goals - Dreams - Illogical Achieving, Paradigms - Illogical Improvements & Achieving, ReModel Your Habits, Terror Barrier - Illogical Stuck-Buster, Uncategorized | No Comments

Are You Frightened Of Giving Up A Well Paid Job to Have a More Satisfying Life?

So, you’re a professional type working in a large corporation.  You are well qualified academically and have held jobs with increasing responsibilities.  Now you have a family, maybe kids at or about to go to college.  Plus you are paid well, good healthcare scheme, pension being funded well.  It all sounds very good: the envy of many, even. But…repeated downsizings, reorganisations and corporate ‘nonsense’ seem to be increasing demands on you whilst reducing your resources.  Do you want a promotion? But, do you really want to play the politics needed to get noticed? Are you really sure this job is what you are on this planet to do?

For many of you, the answers will be: ‘Maybe’, ‘No’ & ‘Probably not’.

But you’re stuck anyway.  Because the money every month is too good to let go.  Even if you are clear what your ‘dream life’ is. Even if you can see your dream life as eventually being more profitable in money terms. Plus, giving you freedom to do more of the things you don’t seem to have time for. Like, being with the family, teaching your kids to play football, taking long vacations.

It’s a Catch-22.  You’ve got to be crazy to leave such a job with all that it allows you to have.  But to stay means that you will find yourself under more pressure to do more.  In Joseph Heller’s book, ‘they’ kept raising the number of missions that bomber crews had to fly before they were sent home.  Sound familiar?

Catch-22 has got into our culture.  But most people are not aware that there is a way out. And the way out is not to do with the central character in the book, Yossarian.  Rather it is to do with his room mate, Orr.

There Is A Way Out of Catch 22

Wikipedia explains:

“Orr is a fictional character in the classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Orr is a World War II bomber pilot who shares a tent with his good friend, the protagonist of the novel, Yossarian. Described as “a warm-hearted, simple-minded gnome,” Orr is generally considered crazy. His most notable feature is repeatedly being shot down over water, but, until his final flight, always managing to survive along with his entire crew. On his final flight, perhaps two-thirds of the way through the novel, he is again shot down into the Mediterranean, and is lost at sea. Only in the last ten pages of the novel does Heller reveal that Orr’s crashes were part of an elaborate (and successful) plot to escape the war.

Orr is the only airman of the group to successfully get away by the end of the novel.”

So how do you ‘crash your plane safely’ in corporate life?

It’s about practicing something that your job does not ask you to do. It must be useful, actually vital, to take you to where you are going.  Orr practiced living in a survival dinghy, learning to fish and staying optimistic.  None of these were needed for his job, but were needed to get away safely.

So what might these things be for you?

Alcohol Makes You More Creative – says HBR

By | Productivity | No Comments

The Next Big Leap in Productivity Improvement?

Was really intrigued by the article in the May-June 2018 Harvard Business Review describing the effect of a few drinks on people’s creativity.

I have long joked that the most creative marketing ideas come up in the bar after work.  But, it seems that there is some truth in this.

So why do I bring the matter up?

Well, it’s another thread in my hunch.  Which is that the next big leap in corporate productivity will not be a technology or organizational one, but rather a personal development one.

Now, before you get turned off by boring phrases like ‘corporate productivity’, ‘organisational’ or ‘personal development’, how about we call these ‘Shared Bonanza’, ‘People Going the Same Way’ and ‘Becoming More Aware’?  I’ll follow up about all these phrases later.  Meanwhile…

Creativity is the result of all this and creativity is what is desired.  The world constantly needs new things, new experiences and new ways of doing things.  These all have to be created.  It feels like the constraint to growth everywhere and yet is somehow doesn’t find its way on to the agenda at Strategic Reviews.  It’s either confined to the R&D folks or simply left to chance.

So having a few drinks may boost creativity.  I am not suggesting it as a panacea, but the thought gets you thinking.

P.s. The same HBR article mentions that ‘editing’ is best done sober, so this article wasn’t completed in one session!

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