Reblogged from the Wall Street Journal: The Experts
By: GIANPIERO PETRIGLIERI
This is evident in the long-standing popularity of “best practices” that help replicate traditional power structures, and of “competency models” that play down the complex and context-dependent nature of managing and leading, and being recognized as doing so.
It is even more evident in HR’s current romance with “big data” and its promise to predict performance, or more precisely, to select and reward people most like those who have been credited with the company’s success in the past.
There is nothing wrong with processes, models and data, of course. The problem is turning them into a fetish with the pretense that they remove human subjectivity and bias, when in reality they just endorse the subjectivity and consolidate the biases of those people and practices cast as models for everyone else.
Human resources’ conservatism, in short, resides in cloaking leaders’ choices under a veil of pseudoscientific inevitability that inhibits the company from questioning whether reliance on those leaders, those choices—and on the past—is desirable or wise.
The inability to question leaders, choices, and the past, in turn, makes it difficult to imagine a different future—let alone build one. No wonder innovation is such an elusive aspiration.
HR’s conservatism is hardly due to the timidity or ideology of individuals who occupy the function. Quite the contrary, HR executives I meet are often frustrated by the constraints it poses on their desire and ability to initiate or support strategic change.
It is most often a product of the ambiguous status the HR function still holds in many organizations.
While corporate rhetoric celebrates it as a strategic instrument, HR is often treated as a maintenance tool. The aim to stay aligned to the business so as to create value often translates into the demand to keep the organization running smoothly to earn legitimacy.
Take leadership development, for example, arguably the most forward-looking among HR’s duties. Most of the practices… Read More