While making new attempts to convince an audience in a speech yesterday I found myself clarifying convergence between HR, leadership and people skills in ways I had not fully thought through before. Sometimes when you talk and think about ideas for a while they suddenly start to make sense in entirely new ways. Conversation drives insight. This led to more ideas later that will cause me to revise my presentations to emphasize where we are in “the state of the art” today.
Several very different factors are evolving rapidly in society, having begun 30 or 40 years ago, now becoming visible in many places. Best known, most obvious is the impact of the PC dating from the first Apple computers built in Steve Jobs’ garage in 1975. Not only have these changed world history, but we don’t yet know how much or what the most powerful impacts will be. From pure record-keeping to social networking the story is far from finished.
Less well known, but now quite clear in direction, we can date recognition of the amazing power of effective HR from the takeover of GM’s Fremont, California car plant by Toyota, who were able to double production with the same people, machines, suppliers, etc., in just two years and have continued to boost productivity steadily since – for 25 more years – a management/human resources process that in incredibly powerful.
Then Complexity theory, with roots in biology and mathematical systems, least well understood, tells us that complex situations behave in similar ways in all endeavors, all challenges from physics to human behavior. HR – or human behavior – is the most complex area of all.
Complexity theory tells us that thousands or millions of “independent agents” working on problems will evolve rapidly to produce amazingly powerful, unexpected answers that turn out to be based on simple principles. Of course this is exactly what we’re seeing on the Internet… and at Toyota’s Fremont adventure called NUMMI – notice their simple principles: teamwork, equity, involvement, mutual trust and respect, and safety.
With blogging and social networking conversations, often truncated, halting and confusing, by millions of people someone will stumble on answers and ideas that will change the world in dramatic ways – and some of those will be further clarity in HR and leadership.
We now know HR process can revolutionize results. What we don’t fully understand yet are the simple principles that work together to create the right framework for this to occur in the widely varied organizational situations we face. We know what work on auto assembly lines.
Hospitals are struggling to apply complexity theory directly, a confusing path based on the concept of “positive deviance” or “copying the successful people from thousands of attempts” at solving a problem like rampant, drug resistant infections. More of these efforts are being tested world wide. The potential to solve political and organizational problems never before resolved logically is enormous. Those whose conversations lead them to the best solutions stand to reap equally enormous benefits.