Create a Power Point presentation (6 – 8 slides) and include “notes” on each slide (using the Power Point notes area) for the question asked below. A voice over is not required and should not be included.
The presentations should:
· Analyze and discuss the critical reading question based on the reading at the end of the chapter.
· The Power Point slides should not be crowded with information. As with any Power Point, the slides should give concise bullet information.
· The notes section on each slide should give the analysis/detail.
Please be sure you are reading the chapter reading assigned to each of the question to ensure your analysis is well thought out. The question can be analyzed and well supported with detail from the reading, it should not be limited to your general opinion.
Week Two: Chapter Three – 3.2 Reading (Attached)
What role does the HR function play with the strategic planning process? What unique value and perspectives does the HR function bring to strategic planning?
Robert A. Simpkins
When was the last time that you can recall senior leadership in your organization asking for the HR department’s help in creating an organization’s strategic plan? For that matter, when was the last time that the HR organization even knew that a new or revised strategic plan was being created?
If your HR organization is like most others, informative consultation takes place only after the plan is constructed to ensure that HR will be able to provide the right number of people, in the right place, with the right training. At this point, the contribution of the HR department will be too little, too late—too little because you lack adequate information about why personnel with specific or generalized capabilities are required and too late to meet the requirements in the necessitated time frame. Unfortunately, this sequence of events has become commonplace in too many organizations. Why is this trend occurring, why does it need to be reversed, and what can HR executives do to make sure it is reversed in their organizations?
In today’s increasingly fast-paced and competitive environment, a troubling mindset has begun to unfold among senior leadership. It doesn’t matter whether we are focusing on private enterprise, not-for-profit, government, or military organizations; leaders are becoming, either by choice or through carelessness, more and more isolated from the daily operational realities of the very entities they are charged with guiding. There has never been a time like the present when those given the top responsibility in organizations actually know so little about what is happening operationally on a day-by-day basis in their own organizations.
There are two primary reasons for this challenging occurrence. First, if your leaders are developed from talent within the organization and internally promoted up the ranks, it is very likely that remarkable changes have occurred since they last performed the frontline functions themselves. In other words, when they performed the operational jobs, the world was a very different place. Technology and processes have undoubtedly changed many times, and the way that employees interact with the newer technologies has also changed. What customers value and why they prefer one organization’s products or services over another organization’s are also in constant shift. The competition’s market position and capabilities probably changed frequently. And something in the general operational environment (global, regulatory, economic, psychological, and demographic issues, etc.) changed in a dynamic way every day. Most importantly, and something that is critical to all HR professionals, organizational associates’ attitudes and opinions change more often than in the past as to whom they wish to work for and why they wish to perform a particular job.
The second reason for this senior-management disconnect occurs when leaders are brought in from outside the organization. The result is a deficiency of contextual understanding. They often lack an appreciation of what is actually taking place in the new organization and what it will take to move it toward renewed, improved, or sustained success. Don’t get me wrong—organizations need an occasional infusion of new thinking from intelligent leaders who have a successful track record, albeit sometimes in very different organizations. Over and over again, however, organizations have paid huge sums of money to successful leaders who have achieved great results in other organizations, industries, or environments only to watch them become incapable of leading the new organization. This is most often due to their lack of operational familiarity and initial ignorance of the indigenous and deeply ingrained thought process behind problem solving in their new organization.
When these imported leaders realize their deficiencies, they frequently ask operational heads to provide them with archival activity-based counts. In other words, they want to know how many times something has been, or is being, done so they can benchmark it against some other more familiar organization’s best practices, even when the bench-marked organization is in a completely different environment. The result is that these new leaders, in very short order, become overwhelmed with information when, in fact, what they really need is performance-based measurements that determine where the organization currently is and how fast it is moving toward a specific goal. More activity-based counting leads to more confusion. More confusion leads to more activity-based counting. In no time at all, the employees of the organization will find themselves spending a larger percentage of their time filling out count sheets than they do on the functional role for which they were hired. This is not an effective foundation for creating an actionable strategic plan.
It’s time for HR, with its knowledge of which employees possess operational expertise, to take back the role as primary process managers to any strategic planning initiative. To put it in a more straightforward way, the HR department must become an organization’s visibly recognized authority about the strategic-planning process and its experts in overcoming the obstacles that often prevent planning success. This does not mean the HR department should do the strategic planning for an organization; rather, it should be the conduit for subject-matter contribution and the linchpin that sustains and holds the process together.
Stepping back for a moment, let’s take a look at a sadly typical strategic planning sequence of events. In most cases, an organization has an ill-defined process that cycles something like this: (1) excitement for a hot new-fad planning model; (2) deployment of a fluffy, imprecise, and foundationless strategy; (3) frustration with the slow pace and poor quality of implementation resulting from varying levels of resistance; (4) disillusionment with the whole effort; and (5) abandonment in favor of the next fad planning model. If a final strategic plan is ever rolled out, the employees often express amusement because, based on past experience:
· They don’t believe the organization really means it because they’ve seen far too many previous examples of a lack of sustained leadership commitment.
· They know the organization doesn’t have a chance of achieving it because they know the realities of the operational environment and availability of resources (people, time, tools, and money).
· They don’t see how it relates to their functional work because the plan is too high level and neglects to make a connection to each person’s accountability for the success of the plan.
Steps To Creating A Strategic Plan
To build their own expertise, HR leaders must be knowledgeable about the primary and elemental steps to creating a successful, actionable, and measurable strategic plan, not just another pretty binder that collects dust on a workplace shelf until the outer shell is needed for some other project. Successful and valued strategic planning consists of specific steps or stages. These are outlined below with a description of how HR can contribute toward ensuring the success of any planning effort. We also take a look at real-life organizations who probably fell short in integrating HR into a specific stage, as well as look at some of the very few (sadly) who have recognized and integrated the strength of the HR department into their planning process.
Understand the Planning Legacy
First, there is a need to review and understand the historical legacy of strategies and strategic planning in an organization (even newly merged ones). Answers to the following questions can help in getting a picture of the type of planning that has been undertaken previously:
· What’s been done before?
· What was the result of any previous work?
· Where were the successes and failures?
· How have employees been affected?
· What is the organizational attitude, at all levels, toward the strategic planning process and the resulting plans?
Without this knowledge, strategic planning teams will often repeat the same mistakes of their predecessors. Human resources departments have the ability to conduct this type of research at all levels of the organization. HR must proactively assure that they have access to key senior leaders, middle management, and operational personnel and be recognized by various vertical and horizontal departments as an entity that can effectively and efficiently gather pertinent information. In other words, HR must gain knowledge of, and become skilled at, strategic planning’s best practices and drive the acceptance of their knowledge across the organization—not when senior leaders decide to create a new strategy, but prior to any initiative.
Going back a few years, consider the merger (or acquisition) of America Online and Time Warner. AOL was created during the earliest upswing in the new world of the Internet. Dynamic and innovative, they represented the extremely rapid growth in the need for information management and manipulation. Their employees were young, flexible, and had a whole lot of new ideas about a newly emerging marketplace. Time Warner, itself a product of many, many mergers and acquisitions, represented the old-line diversified media powerhouse. Bureaucratic and rigidly structured, their growth was starting to slow down as they searched for new markets. Their employees were more middle and older age, conservative, and searching for new ideas. Although it would be easy to blame one or the other for the lack of the initial harmonious integration, I suspect the fault lies with both. In AOL’s case, the planning environment was populated with individuals who had no experience with setbacks and challenges and knew only rapid growth with no end in sight. In Time Warner’s case, strategic planning was done by a high-level team reporting to senior leadership. Do you think the legacy of strategic planning would be very different in each firm? A proactive, combined HR team could have evaluated and adjusted for these legacy differences.
Create a Diverse Planning Team
Next is team formation—the formation of an intelligent strategic-planning team. This includes two critical issues: diversity of thought and diversity of skills. Diversity should encompass, as any HR manager knows, more than just gender and race. Although these two areas are very important, diversity regarding age, experience, knowledge, skills, regionalism, culture, education, and personality should also be valued. Each of these categories, with all their subsets, brings varying perceptions and understanding of realities and events to the planning table. If an organization doesn’t recognize the value of diversity, and incorporate it into the strategic planning team, there is little likelihood of success. Skill requirements are also critically important to planning success. In addition to having knowledge about a particular organizational process or function, a team must be formed with a variety of strategic-planning-required skills that include, but should not be limited to, team management, project management, interviewing, critical analysis, collaboration, negotiations, time management, scenario or simulation planning, trend analysis, market analysis, perspective analysis, supply-chain analysis, research, value-proposition analysis, competitive analysis, finance and accounting, regulatory research and compliance, and communications (oral and written). It’s not that everyone on the team must possess all these skills, but the capability must be present somewhere on the strategic planning team. Note that if you are a global or globalizing organization you should include team members who have a strong understanding of civilizations, values, and cultures.
It would be wrong to assemble a strategic planning team from only one hierarchal level in your organization. In my most recent book, Not Another Pretty Binder: Strategic Planning That Actually Works (HRD Press, 2008), I described three typical scenarios often found in team formation:
· 1. The overpowered team. This consists only of senior leaders and is often found assembling a plan behind some secretive closed doors. The plan won’t work because it is, typically, too vague and rests heavily on only long-term visionary thinking.
· 2. The underpowered team. Here, the team consists of only middle or lower management. The plan will come out too tactical and short-term in its perspective, and so it will likely meet with resistance from senior leaders.
· 3. The tow-truck team. In this case, the charter to develop a strategic plan is given to individuals who don’t have a lot to do because they are nearing retirement or in transition between assignments. The resulting strategic plan will never work because the developers of the plan have little or no vested interest in its outcome because they won’t be around to see the consequences of its full deployment.
Here again, the HR department is the key to a successful strategic-planning process. HR is not only the “owner” of the physical bodies within the organization, but also the coordinator of intellectual details that knows exactly where a specific knowledge or functional expertise resides. Proper selection and usage of these aptitudes in the planning process can best be managed by personnel professionals. HR knows each employee’s capabilities at the point of being hired, what new skills the employee acquired through training and practice, and his or her success at applying the skills while on the job.
During the next steps in the strategic-planning process, operational expertise will be required to interpret and clarify data from all parts of the organization. Members from the law department can provide critical information about legal, regulatory, and contractual issues. Production personnel can provide knowledge about the realities of the daily operational requirements. Marketing can provide intelligence about changes in the targeted markets and competition. Sales and the customer service representatives can provide intimate knowledge about customer values. Members of the finance department can provide important details about cash flow and availability. Quality staff and research can also bring great expertise to the planning process. There is no part of your organization that can’t provide some intelligence to a strategic plan. Remember, though, as you select contributors to the planning team, they must have enthusiasm, time, and knowledge to be a part of any strategic planning effort.
A great example of this step would be Southwest Airlines, probably the only airline making a profit during these difficult times. Of course, as all its publicity correctly states, Southwest likes to make sure its employees have fun at work. But, when it comes to planning, Southwest’s approach can best be summed up by Colleen C. Barret, retiring president of the airline and the one primarily responsible for employee and customer satisfaction over her rise from secretary to head of the airline. A close partner to Southwest’s legendary founder, Herb Kelleher, she once said “When it comes to getting things done, we need fewer architects and more bricklayers.”
Align Planning with Leadership Goals
The next step in strategic planning is leadership alignment. What is the direction of the organization, as envisioned by the organization’s highest-level leadership, and what are their personally important issues? In this stage, a comprehensive examination must be made of leadership’s vision and mission statements, plus any other visionary thoughts they might have. If the eventual strategic plan does not integrate and support their directional perceptions, the plan will be treated as a failure and tossed aside.
HR, once again, must set the stage for access to the senior leaders and help facilitate effective and well-structured interviewing sessions that will uncover their thinking. It should be noted, though, that HR should not be the only department responsible for actually conducting the interviews with senior leaders. Additional selected team members, with their specific operational expertise, should be in on the interviews to help bring clarity to statements and dialogues.
I have had the privilege of working for several years with the U.S. Army National Guard in almost every state and territory. The deliverable was to create a strategic plan. Sadly, in most states and territories, there was an absence of visionary communications from the Office of The Adjutant General (TAG; the top person in each state and territory). The greatest successes, though, came from those where the TAG was willing (and able) to convey a clear understanding to the team about the short, intermediate, and long-term vision of the specific Guard. The incentive for doing so was always based on the HR officer clearly conveying the rationale and benefits for doing so to the most senior leadership.
Moving on through the strategic planning process, it would now be time to analyze the organizational realities. The planning team is in possession of the legacy experiences to know what has and hasn’t worked in the past, a full and diverse team, and an understanding of the senior leader’s perceptions. The planning team must compare the organization’s history with its current status and determine the aspects of the organization and its environment that can be leveraged to move it forward and support the visionary and mission direction, as well as identify the aspects that will present obstacles and pitfalls to moving forward. This is typically done with the SWOT process (which analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). This is a great tool for planning teams, where every relevant piece of information (hard and soft) is categorized into one of four boxes. Identifying the organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses will determine the organization’s ability to achieve its shorter-term purpose and mission. Determining the organization’s future external opportunities and threats will clarify the thinking behind the longer-term vision and suggest what could prevent the company from achieving it. To complete a SWOT analysis with any degree of accuracy, specific functional expertise must come from those who know what the organizational reality is at the current time, where it’s been, and what is the trend.
The HR department is very essential to this stage. HR managers help select the subject-matter experts who can best determine the realities. Although they may not have enterprisewide knowledge of the organization, they know their specific operation or processes better than others. Also, HR helps coordinate with the managers of the experts the time necessary to participate on the planning, conduct the research, and make a successful contribution to the initiative, avoiding departmental distractions that can undermine team efforts. In addition, by being part of the team, HR professionals can provide expertise about laws and regulations affecting existing and potential employees, plus any information gleaned from employee surveys. Finally, HR professionals can help structure, coordinate, align, and distribute any and all communications about the strategic plan (with senior leadership approval, of course) before initiative development, during plan creation, and after the rollout.
If you want to emulate an organization, look to Nordstrom, the high-end department store. When its HR leader was asked how the company trained employees to be so good, he said it didn’t train them. Nordstrom hired the best people and let them develop their own ideas about providing the best customer service.
Once the realities of the organization are clear, to the point, and measurable, the planning team must work on alternative development options—to determine how to fix current performance-improvement problems and address future transformational issues. Any good strategy planning team knows that there is always more than one way to fix a problem, so they evaluate multiple solutions. They do this by determining where the organization needs to be changed, the priorities of change, and what requirements are needed to achieve the desired change. Weighing these options will establish prioritized action plans.
This may be, in addition to the team-building activity, one of the most important stages for HR involvement. Human resources is the only department that can determine, with any degree of accuracy, what resources (people, time, tools, and money) realistically exist in the current organization, which ones can be acquired from outside the organization, and which ones can be redistributed around the organization to achieve any alternative options. Until this knowledge is applied to the strategic planning process, alternative solutions have a potential for being meaningless.
It always amazes me when I hear that an organization has lost its direction because of changes in reality. I was once with a group from NASA, the famed governmental space organization, and asked them how their customers (the U.S. taxpayers) viewed NASA’s value. They told me “wonderful—they think we are one of America’s greatest assets.” I asked them how they knew that, and they answered that they had conducted a survey and that was the answer that those over 40 years of age gave. I asked them about the responses from those under 40, and they told me that they generally considered NASA to be inconsequential. I asked them whether that answer bothered them, and they said it didn’t “because NASA’s budget came from Congress and they were all over 40!” These were rocket scientists, and yet they couldn’t see the need for assessing alternative realities that would inevitably arrive down the road when those under 40 grow older and become the budget makers for Congress.
The next stage of strategic planning is to construct a scorecard that clearly identifies specific improvement actions that are being taken to measure progress and communicate success. There’s been a lot of talk in the popular media about a balanced scorecard, but, if the previous stage was done correctly, organizational priorities will actually be given different weights from less important activities.
The reality is that strategic plans will end up unbalanced, and that’s OK. Any organization will always be constrained by availability of resources, and therefore the deployment of these resources will, by necessity, be in areas that will achieve the greatest organizational improvement.
The recommendation for HR’s involvement in this stage is, first, to make sure that the scorecard language and the associated measurements are clear and understandable to all personnel in all departments at all levels. If this doesn’t occur and individuals in the organization don’t recognize the language or how it addresses their specific needs, the plan will be written off as “fluff.” Also, HR, once again, needs to make sure there are the necessary human resources to complete whatever actions have been designed.
Over and over again, I’ve been called into an organization because the senior leadership can’t figure out why their strategic plan is not being implemented well or not at all. Upon an exhaustive analysis, it becomes clear the vision is bigger than the realities. Think of it like this: have you ever tried to carry more bags of groceries than your arms could hold? The result is disaster.
Once the strategic planning team has a solid scorecard based on the comparative analysis between the vision/mission/purpose and the organizational realities, it will be able to measure near-term and long-term performance. The scorecard will prescribe some immediate performance-improvement activities, as well as long-term transformational activities.
It is also important at this juncture to assign a person to be accountable for each planned action, including assuring that the action is being performed and progress toward a goal is being measured, recognizing any deviations from the plan, and reporting progress back to the planning team. HR departments help facilitate this aspect of planning by assuring that those individuals selected to manage the action actually understand their accountability and have the capability to sustain and complete the actions. HR can also help by making sure that all the strategic-initiative timelines are realistic, considering the requirements of the regular production schedule.
Perhaps an example, and one that was very close to me personally, was when the original AT&T bought NCR in a very hostile takeover. The visionary rationale for the acquisition was sound—NCR had an international presence and AT&T did not. If AT&T was to globalize, something they’d been wanting to do since the spin-off of ITT in 1958, then they needed someone with experience and infrastructure. There were so many things that went wrong with this acquisition that it’s hard to know where to start. But one of the most visible was that no existing strategic business unit’s president had the slightest idea of how to integrate NCR into a complementary operational model. No one knew what their accountability was for making the merger work.
One of the final steps in strategic planning is to deploy, or roll out, the new or revised strategy. Although there are several components to this activity, perhaps the most important is to develop effective communication models that make sure enthusiasm and positive attitudes are maintained. Nothing succeeds like success, and it’s important that the team demonstrate, as quickly as possible, improvement, even if it is only for a small component of the plan.
HR, once again, must play a visible role in the creation and distribution of all communications related to a strategic plan. The HR team must prepare an information-sharing plan that recognizes the variations in the informational needs of different departments and how best to deliver information to them. Once a unique model is in place, HR must assure clarity by testing the understanding of the communicated message and make proper and continuous adjustments to improve it. Remember, it’s not what’s said but what people hear that drives employee opinion.
Think about how often you have heard a senior leader in business or government say he or she had been misquoted. Organizations abhor an absence of communications. If real knowledge isn’t available, rumors will quickly fill in the empty spaces. When Airbus, a major competitor to Boeing, began to have some problems with development of new planes, the communications became a catastrophe. Unions, suppliers, financial partners, investment analysts, and customers began to question their strategic plan. Only after a change of leadership resulting in improved communications did the organization get back to doing what it does so well—producing aircraft.
Although we consider this the final step, the reality is that strategic planning is a continuous process. Contingency plans help sustain the process. It’s very easy for a strategic plan to melt away when the urgent replaces the important. Remember the old, but true, saying: “What can go wrong will go wrong.” For every short- and long-term improvement action shown on the strategy scorecard, a team must work proactively to develop a contingency plan—alternative approaches to achieving the goal if realities change and the developed action is no longer feasible. If team members wait for the engine to derail before they consider how to get the train back on the track, precious time will be lost that will, most likely, negatively affect the perception and results of the strategy.
Human resource team members must make a major contribution to this stage by assuring that a contingency plan is created for every action, by helping determine the true cause-and-effect relationship for any deviations or anomalies in the measured progress or results, and by preparing team members to approach any problems with critical-thinking capabilities.
This past summer, as the home-mortgage crisis reached a critical point, the White House stated that it had gathered a group of financial minds together to come up with a contingency plan for the mortgage-landing institutions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if they failed. Having worked several years ago with both of these fine institutions, I know how valuable they are to our country. The only problem was that the White House team was not working on a contingency plan, but a disaster-recovery plan. Contingency plans must be done during the development of a strategic plan and not “when the train falls off the track.” I know a lot of people at the two firms, and I know they know the difference!
As this strategic-planning process demonstrates, HR can, and must, play a proactive and premeditated role in the development of the planning process. From the legacy to the contingency, HR professionals are uniquely vital to the success of each stage, as well as the overall strategy attainment. If an organization needs outside assistance, it should be from those who recognize the intricacies of strategic planning and the role that HR can play in it. Educate your senior leadership early about your contributing value and become the driver of strategic change in your organization.
Source: Robert A. Simpkins, © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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