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Making HR more interesting

Blair Mcpherson

HR isn’t just about hiring, firing and training. HR is also about predicting how staff will behave in order to avoid unintended consequences. And managers , like staff , some times act in away that is not in their own interest or that of the organisation? Contributor Blair Mcpherson, former director of community services, author and blogger.

Can you trust your colleagues let alone partner organisations or those you are contracting with? Why don’t people stick to agreements, why do they put short term benefit before greater long term gain? Why do they act in a way that is not in their best interest or that of the organisation.

Three teams of senior managers. Each round of negotiations a team picks red or blue. They meet with the other teams to agree which colour they intend to submit. If both teams submit red they share the four points, if both teams submit blue they get no points, if one team submits red and the other blue then blue takes all four points.

First round all teams honour their agreements so share maximum points. Second round of negotiations one team breaks ranks states intends to vote one way but votes the other in order to take all the points. The other two teams are upset. They must now decide how to play the next round of negotiations.

The exercise is intended to show the value of trust and the difficulties of re-establishing trust once lost. However what was more interesting to me was the reason given by the team that broke the agreement. They claimed not to have been motivated by gaining the extra points and so winning” the exercise. They were fully aware the exercise was about trust in the context of a corporate team building initiative, aimed at improving cooperation between directorates/ departments. No, they did it just to make the exercise more interesting. After all they said what would be the fun in all voting red each time!

This wasn’t the real thing, this wasn’t a multi-million pound contract with BT or part of a partnership deal with the NHS for the future sharing of health and social care costs, it wasn’t even a corporate initiative to rationalise IT or contribute to a corporate communications budget. So where was the harm!

The chief executive and leader/chair of the board believe that senior managers /directors are protecting the budgets of their departments at the expense of the wider organisation and its objectives so they aim to use this type of management development program to get senior managers to be more corporate.

And if they can’t win the intellectual argument they can make each director responsible for a corporate objective that way they will have to work a cross traditional departmental boundaries. This assumes that directors and senior managers will act rationally either because they recognise the benefits to the organisation or because they fear the consequences for themselves if they don’t. But what if senior managers sometimes act irrationally just to make it more interesting?

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