Monday, April 24, 2017

Square pegs; round holes -- the HR problem

Donald Rumsfeld -- former Secretary of Defense -- was criticized widely for his statement: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want ..."

Substitute "project" for 'war' and "project team" for 'army' in there and it might appear more familiar than many of us want to admit.

I've always maintained: "You organize according to the staff you have, not the staff you might want"

Now, I find no less an eminence than the team of Reisman and Glazer, who wrote the HR classic "The Lonely Crowd", called by some a landmark study of the American character, said something similar to what both myself and Rumsfeld have said, only they wrote it many years ago:

" .... [Although] different kinds of characters can be used for the same work within an institution, a ‘price’ is paid by the character types that fit badly as against the release of energy provided by the congruence of character and task."  As quoted by Doris Kearns Goodwin in "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream"

By that team Reisman and Glazer mean what?
  • "Character types that fit badly" are those staff or team members who can't do the job you have assigned them to do. They will either spend a lot of their energy getting nowhere, or they will suck up a lot of your energy trying to get them to do it 
  • "Congruence of character and task" is their speak for "the job you've asked them to do"

It's no coincidence I've named my consultancy "Square Peg". The organization chart, like staffing plans, and every other type of plan, rarely survive the collision of plan with reality.*

*Planning is good; it turns up a lot stuff that heretofore was under the rock. It's just that plans themselves often have to change

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