Monthly Archives: July 2005

More on the HR discussion

FCNow points to the Knowledge@Wharton article is your HR department friend or foe?

Some interesting bits from the article:

Dealing with these types of HR departments “is like going to the dentist,” says David Sirota, author of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want (Wharton School Publishing). When people are asked to rate the quality of different functions within their company, he adds, “IT and HR are repeatedly rated the lowest.”

HR was seen as a way to advocate for, and protect, employees — an orientation that became “quite explicit in the 1950s and beyond as part of an effort by management to prevent unionization.” But more recently, and especially over the past decade, the threat of unionization is much less widespread even as technological advances have made employees more expendable. The “social contract” between employee and employer — in which companies provided lifetime employment to its workers in return for loyalty and commitment to company goals — has ended.

The classic area where HR leaders can provide strategic input is “anticipating a merger,” says Walker. “A very well-defined set of opportunities and experiences exists, including assistance in valuing the merger, developing the integration plan, communicating with employees, matching talent, and so forth. Some company HR departments play a key role here. In others, they are still observers, cleaning up the mess afterwards.”

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and author of a book entitled Winning, noted in a recent interview that “outside of the CEO, HR is the most critical function in any company. Development of leaders is the ultimate responsibility of every CEO and thus is an integral part of HR. I saw my job as allocating people and dollars to opportunities. I wasn’t designing products. I was putting people where I thought they were right for the job. I did that with my partners in HR.” HR evaluation systems, he says, “should be rigorous and nonbureaucratic” and monitored as closely as financial reporting is now monitored under Sarbanes-Oxley.

Critics of the way HR has developed over the past decade suggest that HR has become a “handmaiden of management,” more concerned with carrying out directives from above than supporting the needs of employees.

The system could be better if it were two-tiered, Kraft suggests. “Somebody has to develop an alternative dispute resolution system or some mechanism that allows employees a voice…. I still view that as a part of the HR function, although it doesn’t seem to be happening.”

When HR managers “say they want to be business partners,” suggests Sirota, “what they mean is they want to work for management. Most companies say employees are our greatest asset, but what they really mean is they are our biggest cost.”



Dave Pollard has a scary thought…

What would happen if a single corporate consortium — let’s call it ‘GlobalCorp’ — achieved its ultimate goal: a ‘corner’ on every business (including the underground economy) everywhere in the world?

He then presents its Annual Report’s Management Discussion and Analysis section. All I can say is that thankfully GlobalCorp must be ages away from becoming a reality. But there are echos in GlobalCorp in each country and a lot of mini-GlobalCorps in the form of various MNCs operating in the world.

The night it rained in Mumbai

Sharky has his report here.

He spent the night perched on the counter in the office of a BPCL petrol pump in Sewri !

Book review of “Mediocre But Arrogant”

As a category the MBA seems under threat, with even the likes of Henry Mintzberg (who gets quoted by all the MBAs) training his guns on them. In India, we are subjected to conjecture and envy when the MBA salaries come out in Feb-Dec. No wonder that the common man questions “Who are these guys?”

Abhijit Bhaduri in his book “Mediocre But Arrogant” tries to answer that question in a humanistic way.

Mediocre But Arrogant is the story of Abbey an unambitious drifter who was good in extra-curricular activities during his BA (Eco) days because he needed the cash from inter-collegiate festivals to pay for cigarettes and coffee. He has clueless about what he wants to do after his graduation and serendipitously lands up for a course in HR from the Management Institute of Jamshedpur.

The book is how Abbey navigates his way through the two years of MBA in Jamshedpur, the girls he falls in love with, the friends he makes, and his journey from a youngster without any clue, to a person who doesn’t mind flouting the rules to survive and towards the end of the book, the signs are evident that he’s becoming more self-aware and possibly more responsible…?

But the book is more than just about Abbey, it’s also about his interaction with systems (like Delhi University and MIJ) and people (from Profs like the respected by all Haathi and feared by all Chatto ) and classmates (from the slimy Gopher, the know-it-all Rusty, the “brains” Sethu). Abbey of course has a major soft spot for the women, and they have a profound impact on him, giving rise to some of his most introspective moments. There is the ‘girl back hom’ Priya, Ayesha ‘the coquette’ and Keya ‘the lovely’. In each one of them Abbey discovers a human being beyond just the bracket they get slotted in by the boys.

What Mediocre But Arrogant does is that it humanizes the MBA from the analytical left brained creatures of popular media to normal youngsters who have their own set of dreams and insecurities.

While the book is based in the 1980s the world of MBAs have changed, but there are deeper roots that run through. For example, Bannerjee Babu, who does student’s assignments and projects for a fee and is the repository of all papers churned out in the past is a human figure of cyberspace which today’s MBAs rely so much more on.

What I would have liked in the book is more stories about Abbey’s classmates. While the book is written in the first person by Abbey who is quite self-centred stories/episodes about fellow classmates and professors would have made the book much more engrossing.

The humor is always spot on, and anyone who’s lived in a hostel with weird people will surely be able to identify with the book. Of course, I think the people who should really read the book are the ones who aspire to do an MBA. The book shatters a lot of myths around MBAs and yet does not demonize them. The cartoons are really good…I loved the ones on the MIJ anthem, OB notes and the Strategic Planning notes. Go ahead, check them out!

Abhijit tells me that the second book will be about how Abbey copes with corporate life. I can’t wait for it now ! I want to see what Rusty, Gur, Gopher, Abbey, Ayesha, Sethu will turn into in five years…(you know the campus interviewer’s always-in-fashion question…“where do you see yourself in five years?” Will Fundu become an NGO worker? Will Rusty actually move towards consulting? Will the ‘jugaadu’ guys do better than the ones who studied hard? I would love to know all these… How will they deal with strikes in the workplace? With firing people? With subordinates…?

Leadership and psychometric testing

Rob at Businesspundit announced that he thinks studies about leadership are irrelevant.

I am an INTP. We are one of the smallest of the Myers Briggs groups, and that does create problems for us at work. But more importantly, it explains why studies about leadership, are (usually) irrelevant.

Well I also am an INTP, but lets not talk about that here 🙂

Psychometric tests aren’t supposed to tell you what you need to do to be a better leader. These tests give one the insight into what drives them, motivates them and makes one more self-aware. Sure, it can be argued that these can be tampered with and that is why the tests shouldn’t be used for selection, promotion but only for self-development.

Leadership studies based on traits theory are bound to fail. That is because business success has a lot of variables attached with it outside the traits and characteristics of the leaders.

Coming back to psychometric tests, one can use a variety of instruments to assess oneself on various parameters. One of the better tests is FIRO-B (which gathers insights into how an individual’s needs for inclusion, control, and affection can shape his or her interactions with others). When choosing a psychometric test one needs to choose a test that has been validated. More on this thread later.