Recombining Organizational DNA

The survey results from the Chief Learning Officer survey show that 77% of respondents feel that people in their organization are not growing fast enough to keep up with the business. Is this anyone’s fault or just a sign of the times?

Human performance in most organization is an afterthought, if thought of at all. Various deparments handle certain components of it, as if you could actually separate workers’ skills from their knowledge and then separate again their attitudes. Here are some possible culprits:

IT: for locking down computers and treating all employees like children, closing off a wealth of information, knowledge and connections outside the artificial firewall.

Communications: for forcing employees to use approved messages that do not even sound human.

Training: for separating learning from work.

HR: for forcing people into standardized  jobs and competency models that do not reflect the person.

Individual growth is not promoted when communication, learning, and even curiosity are blocked. If 77% of senior learning professionals feel that people are not growing fast enough, then either these professionals are not doing their job or they have the wrong job. I think it’s the latter. Separating the responsibility for ‘people’ among an assortment of departments makes no sense from the individual worker’s perspective, it’s just administrative efficiency. With better communication tools available today, these divisions are no longer necessary.

There is an opportunity to identify overlapping areas and redundancies in organizational human performance support. It’s doubtful that departmental incumbents will address the issue because of tribal loyalties, but an anonymous employee survey would be a good start.  A unified support function, focused on really serving workers and helping them grow, could significantly reduce this 77%.

We were discussing this amongst the InternetTime Alliance team and Jon Husband asked why all human processes in an organization are in silos. Jay Cross said it was because of different DNA. Training, HR, OD, KM use different models, speak different languages, and go to separate conferences. However, they’re all in the business of connecting and communicating. They just don’t do it with each other. Given the imperatives for continuous growth today, organizations need to give serious consideration to recombining their organizational DNA.

6 Responses to “Recombining Organizational DNA”

  1. Jon Husband

    Just a slight precision ..

    As I remember the discussion, either I did not ask “why” or if I did it was a rhetorical “why”. I believe I know why the various organizational methods / practices for dealing with (or managing) human processes are in silos … I just think that they don’t need to be fully silo’d.

    I’m prepared to admit that there are some arcane specialties that demand specific expertise at key points, but I also think the emerging conditions for working networked organizations beg the issue of all of HR, much of IT and line management addressing the issues in common to seek synergies and leverage that make sense and are practical.

  2. Jon Husband

    Sorry .. my genetically-based pedantry swept over me there for a moment 😉 Twasn’t me speaking, ’twas my Dad .. all his fault.

  3. Virginia Yonkers

    “77% of respondents feel that people in their organization are not growing fast enough to keep up with the business” I have a couple of theories on this issue myself. First, what CLO’s are saying is “people in our organization are not growing in the areas WE have identified as being important and therefore WE are not making the goals management has set out for us.” Therefore, we need to get rid of the more expensive older workers “not growing fast enough” and bring in cheaper younger workers who can grow.

    I find it interesting that during this recession there has been little discussion of WHO is loosing their job…male, professional, middle age. In the US they are calling it a Shession because women are retaining their jobs. One reason might be that the male workers have higher salaries so this is a chance to cut costs without reprecussions. It is also an opportunity to change an organization’s culture.

    My other theory is that people ARE growing, but there are no accurate assessments (except for the bottom line) to measure where they are growing and matching it with company goals. My own research is showing that the group work and coordination requires new processes and tools that are time consuming and hard to measure. There are also interdepartmental turf wars which means departments don’t want the system to change. In the end, old systems and assessment tools are used because it is “more efficient” (read: not as threatening).


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