The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology


Changing Governance Based on Complexity

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So I suppose first and foremost, I’ll need to admit that I didn’t even read nearly the entire article I happen to be referring to in this post.  I’m really much more of a decision support guy that a decision-making science guy.  I’m not sure I really understand the total complexities that define the differences between the two concepts but I’m pretty confident that they are quite extraordinarily different.

At any rate, what really wanted to point out is illustrated in the paragraph I quoted from HBR below.  Leaders using historical internal trends from their own organization and what sounds to me like portfolio theory seems like an obvious and straightforward concept.  Certainly, many organizations use portfolio theories to not only create many possible future outcomes, but also to guide those outcomes as each component of the portfolio matures.  What strikes me as different is what has been quoted so well in the past:  those who forget the past are destined to relive it in the future.  ((Not in quotes because I’m writing this on a plane and don’t have access to the internet.))

We believe the time has come to broaden the traditional approach to leadership and decision making and form a new perspective based on complexity science. (For more on this, see the sidebar “Understanding Complexity.”) Over the past ten years, we have applied the principles of that science to governments and a broad range of industries. Working with other contributors, we developed the Cynefin framework, which allows executives to see things from new viewpoints, assimilate complex concepts, and address real-world problems and opportunities. (Cynefin, pronounced ku-nev-in, is a Welsh word that signifies the multiple factors in our environment and our experience that influence us in ways we can never understand.) Using this approach, leaders learn to define the framework with examples from their own organization’s history and scenarios of its possible future. This enhances communication and helps executives rapidly understand the context in which they are operating.  ((

While many organizations provide leadership with trend reports that look back at history, trending is not the same as learning from historical mistakes (or the opposite).  In fact, I’d suggest that leaders are most prone to simply repeating mistakes of the past, not because they didn’t learn the lessons the first time around, but really because decision making is shaped by culture and habit that any real analysis of the past.  I think this is especially true in HR where leadership decision making is not thought of a strategic to the overall course of the business, and HR leaders are provided with less decision support and “decision science” than other parts of the organization.

Unlike the usual where I say it all comes down to data and analytics, I think this one really is more rooted in cultural issues.  However, (like the usual) a good analytics practice can help enable the change in leadership decision making by forcing them to see other information that is available.  I wish I knew the answer to this one, but bad decision making is so engrained in how we do business that changing the basic approach of HR leaders around the globe seems a bit out of my reach.


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