HR must reduce bureaucracy to improve business resilience

HR has to lead the way in making businesses more like communities and less bureaucratic in the quest for business resilience, according to one of the world’s leading strategy gurus.

Gary Hamel, professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School, told delegates that they had a ‘historic opportunity’ to create organisations “in which people can bring all their humanity to work every day”.

This would involve breaking down traditional hierarchies and creating forums where everyone can analyse where things have gone wrong, and offer “1,000 wacky ideas”.

“As long as it’s mostly bureaucracy, there will be an upper limit on human effort,” he said. “Resilience depends on initiative, creativity and passion.”

Staff would bring passion to the office rather just obedience, he said. HR would be required to go beyond the practical and become romantics who mobilised and compounded individual effort.

Staff further down the line could also provide a wealth of ideas since they had an emotional stake in the future of the business, rather than in the past.

However, HR would first have to get managers to “escape the denial trap”, and look at the world “in the way it is, and not in the way we want it to be.”

To overcome corporate denial, Hamel said, companies must regard every strategy as temporary, and filter out those who were protecting themselves at the expense of the company.

Management could then “live out on the fringe” to gain first-hand experience of what people below them are saying.

This approach would lead to continual innovation, and companies would not have to resort to a “banana republic approach to change” where change did not happen until a company found itself in crisis.

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