August 2010

Like any professional consultants (whether that consultancy is provided internally or – even more so – externally), the privilege of being selected to provided our service carries responsibilities. Some are mandatory in the strictest sense – the legal framework defines a range of liabilities and risks – while others are better categorised as ‘professional’ or ‘ethical’.

To maintain our standards (and the standards of professional bodes to which we belong, as we are proud to support organisations that work to define, maintain and drive up standards), we are committed to regular and ongoing professional development.  A further ethical concern is to recognise the boundaries within which consultancy is provided and presented: the opportunity to present ideas does not translate into a right to see them implemented. (Indeed, insisting too adamantly ultimately undermines the recipient client: effective consultancy should be based on mutual professional respect.)

As world leaders in promoting the criticality of ensuring the successful transfer and application of learning, coaching and OD interventions, we are seeking here to identify and encourage the achievement of best practice in this business critical area.


Having recently spent, what I’d like to consider, a healthy proportion of the school holidays watching cartoons with my children I was struck by the creation that is Never Never Land, depicted by JM Barrie as a dream-like fantasy world inhabited by Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and a realm of other fascinating characters.  It made me think about the whole concept of escapism that all of us, no matter how old, have the urge or need to venture into at some point. And about the role of ‘dreaming’ as opposed to cold, hard logic and realism.


The quote is from Bill Hicks, deceased US comedian, but it swam back into my memory as I alternated between flicking through the pile of unread broadsheet newspapers by the sofa and watching University Challenge. (OK I’m middle-aged and a little sad, but on the basis of Monday’s episode I know more than a whole Oxford college. Allow me some cardigan-clad pride.) The contestants were young, bright and youthful in their anxious optimism. Being Oxbridge students, no doubt they will prosper, but in a year of record numbers of university applicants being turned away (280,000 according to the Independent on Sunday) and high unemployment in the under 25s, Hicks’ question – I’ll replay the joke later – has a new resonance.


Two counter-intuitive postings from around the wider world of the web, both on aspects of organisational culture and its impact on satisfaction, performance and sustainability … and on the things we chose not just to believe but to cherish. (For a full list of our favourite items, pointing you to gems of wisdom from the web, see our Crackers page).

  • The Second Biggest Lie in HR: All “A” Players is Possible Outcome… – The HR Capitalist looks at the prisons that HR practitioners can create for themselves, including waiting for the ‘perfect’ ‘A Player’ candidate when the job requires someone more … er, prosaic. As one commenting visitor pointed out, “Personally for my company I think I want the ditch diggers – coders, hackers, outre graphic designers, deep level video player designers. Not glamorous roles but core to my success.” So do divas belong on the payroll or the CD player?
  • Business Culture: Denmark vs USA vs Guatemala: The Chief Happiness Officer (we’re guessing self-proclaimed, although we’re admiring the job title) looks at differences in four aspects of working cultures and attitudes around the world (Power Distance Index, Individualism, Masculinity, and Uncertainty Avoidance Index, as evolved and refined by Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede) before drawing a few conclusion on the ideal balance. The CHO wonders how far Hofstede’s work illuminates the prominent positions Scandinavian countries traditionally enjoy in international surveys of job satisfaction, while his readers wonder how far these stereotypes hold up in the light of experience (perhaps slightly missing the CHO’s point?). In the meantime, I’m wondering how many jobs in Copenhagen don’t demand a working knowledge of Danish … 

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Despite the evidence from our tape-measures, we are entering an era of belt-tightening. It’s not so much ‘staying in’ that’s going to be the new ‘going out’, as going without. The recession is rumoured to be over, but the recovery is a matter of doing more with less. And – less widely spoken but just as importantly – for less. Even Waitrose – a winner during the last two years, much to some people’s surprise – now has an Essentials range. As they say in supermarket circles, every little helps (customer service and commitment to quality probably being among those helpful little things.) How different organisations and sectors have responded shows interesting differences, however, as evidenced by CIPD’s Employee Outlook Quarterly Survey Report Spring 2010 (download as PDF here). Decisions taken will, of course, be influenced by big differences in flexibility within national or local arrangements, but the figures for the latest report show a marked polarisation in a number of factors closely related to talent retention and development between the public and private sectors.  (more…)

Dave Ulrich is, without question, an HR guru: as with any guru, it’s difficult to know whether to approach them on bended knee or with a degree of trepidation. Having read “The Why of Work”, the best approach is with an open mind, a small pinch of salt – and with sufficient time to take on board what Ulrich (writing with his wife, Wendy, a psychologist) has to say. There is much of immense value here, and much that has the potential to enable leaders and organisations to generate immense value in more than one sense for themselves (and, importantly, both their customers and their shareholders). Like many of the best books in the ‘how to manage business better’ arena, my biggest qualm is that those who stand to gain most from reading it are those least likely to read it.