Crashing the Power Party: HR's 3-Step Strategy for Playing on the Leadership Team

With all the attention paid to strategic and organizational planning and process redesign, one would think that the question of how the human resources function fits into the organization would be more than an afterthought. Much too frequently, HR is left out of the central planning process. Its role is determined by others; its integration within the organization is carried out by others - while HR hangs about, nervously awaiting its fate in the new scheme of things.

Why, despite some happy exceptions, is HR not involved in defining organizational strategy? Because:

  1. HR has been increasingly fragmented into technical niches. It is not viewed, by itself or others, as a cohesive group whose member-ship includes 'big picture' decision-makers
  2. HR practitioners are too often associated with the very bureaucracy that organizations are trying to cut through, if not out
  3. Top management commonly views organization as structure and process, devoid of human dynamics.

Consequently, HR, and the people it represents, get short shrift. Incredibly, and increasingly, organizations are reengineering themselves without considering their human components. People are fit in after the fact. Empowerment aside, this de-emphasis on human resources may well turn out to be an organizational Achilles heel.

If this is to change, three things must happen:

  • Top decision-makers must recognize that organizations are human phenomena. As such, they must be designed/engineered with the direct involvement of human resource executives.
  • HR professionals must become more knowledgeable about the process of organizational transformation, within the context of business strategy and tactics.
  • HR professionals must pro actively define and shape their own function within the organization (however decentralized, outsourced or disbursed to empowered general managers).

All of this calls for creative thinking. We suggest you begin by opening your mind to all of the ways that HR can serve organizations of the future. A good way to begin is to conduct off-site brainstorming meetings, complemented by creative internal surveying - formal and informal. Be sure to involve individuals from other organizational areas.

When you have your answers, take action. But remember: newly emerging organizational patterns are fluid. Today's answers may be tomorrow's mistakes. Continue the process of examining your role (generalist, specialist, consultant or guru) within the context of your own organization.