Like most of us I soaked up much of the analysis carried in journals about the achievements at the end of the last millennium. Due weight was given to technology and science, innovations and communications. But it struck me that there was very little about the growth in understanding human relationships and ways in which they can be improved. It was almost the opposite - the breakdown of relationships.
I ended up feeling that, yet again, we were undervaluing the progress made in the field of human relationships. Who in 1980, for instance, could have pre- dicted perestroika in the then Soviet Union, truth and reconciliation in South Africa and the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland?
Closer to home in HR terms, the situation that motivated me in the 1970s to specialise in industrial relations - perennial unrest, dysfunctional relationships on a collective scale - will be unknown to the HR manager of the 21st century.
The truth is we now know so much more about how to get it right. A hundred years ago the debate was over whether labour had any claim on capital and whether free trade or import tariffs should rule the day. There was nothing about necessary progress in relationships.
Now we understand that the key issues in collective relationships are not about structural factors or agitator theory, as we believed 30 years ago, but about trust, involvement, partnerships, personal relationships, openness and emotional commitment. In personal relationships we know how to get teams to work together but the application of basic psychology and sociology is still the exception, not the rule.
This new decade should be about applying what is known about interpersonal relationships. But how? This is where HR can enter from off-stage. This can be the unique contribution of HR in being proactive about raising the level of consciousness and debate over relationships and the benefits of getting them right.
I predict that if HR is not centre stage in seizing the opportunity to focus on strategy and change in improving one-to-one and team relationships, then it will be condemned to the shallows and miseries. While others take the initiative, HR will be left to pick up the pieces.
This means that the critical competence for the would-be successful HR manager is risk-taking, not with peoples' jobs or lives but because there is much persuasion of other colleagues to do, much competitio