Ask the right question to get the right answer

In
HR you are only as good as the questions you ask. Vague and nebulous questions
usually result in vague and nebulous solutions. For example, the question,
"How do we work well in teams?" receives the answer "by
teambuilding".

Unfortunately,
senior managers do not help much. They are not very good at articulating their
most difficult personnel issues, but still have an expectation that HR will
come to them with a solution. There are plenty of pre-prepared solutions
around, but genuine business partners in HR will have made sure that they have
clearly defined the problem first.

Diagnosing
HR causes is notoriously difficult, but a clear and focused questioning
technique should be capable of producing the correct solution. The key question
should always be, "How will this add value?" Unfortunately,
"value" is a word that appears to have different meanings for
stakeholders with differing perceptions.

HR
professionals know all about organisational values and regard them as somehow
soft and cultural. To a line manager, added value is hard and only comes from
doing more with less – increasing revenue or cutting costs – while the customer
perceives value only in the "value for money" sense. The trick for HR
is to make a connection between all three.

So
does a command and control culture, and the values that go along with that,
normally result in excellent levels of customer service at the right price? I
don’t know, is the honest answer.

But
there seems to be an assumption behind most change management programmes that
flexible, no-blame cultures lend themselves to improved customer service. This
may be true, but unless it is absolutely clear to everyone concerned how change
management is going to add value, then where will the motivation for change
come from?

"Change
agents" often try to articulate which behaviours will be evident in a
no-blame culture. They talk about stimulating innovation, sharing knowledge and
improving responsiveness, but rarely, if ever, do they use hard figures to back
up their theory.

The
added value question asks where the hard results will start to show up in such
an organisation – in higher output, lower costs or customer feedback on quality
and service? It also immediately begs the question of which measures we have in
place to gauge this shift. Funnily enough, the required measures are often not
already collected, which leads to the obvious but slightly embarrassing
question of what prompted the need for change in the first place.

Not
all change is for the better, and change without progress is pointless.
Questions on anticipated, measurable outcomes should ensure that change
actually adds the sort of value everybody is seeking.

By
Paul Kearns
Senior Partner, Personnel Works

Comments are closed.