Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Sustainability Factor for HR/OD

When Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down from his position as CEO of Apple on August 24, 2011 the articles, comments, blogs and tweets began immediately and will likely continue for some time. In The Harvard Business Review (August 25, 2011,Joshua Gans wrote about whether or not buying Apple stock was a good idea. I did want to link to the article but it appears that the link is no longer available. However, I believe the quote below includes enough context.

While the article focused on the stock, Gans makes a key point that all human resources and organizational development professionals should take note of and ask if they are making a contribution to sustainability in their organizations.

“First, there is every reason to expect that Jobs second tenure at least in part has focused on baking innovation into the organization. A couple of months ago, Adam Lashinsky in a Fortune magazine article (sadly, only available behind a paywall, but it will be the best 99 cent purchase ever on your Kindle) described the cultural transformation inside Apple. The last 15 years have been all about establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations. While the culture came from the drive of Steve Jobs, it is a reasonable expectation that he infused it into the organization itself.”

The concept of “baking innovation”, “establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations” is generally considered to be a top down responsibility. Yet human resources and organizational development professionals are in a powerful position to ensure that the organization achieves these goals. It is a concept that must be imbedded in each and every program, policy, system and task that you do or drive in your role. The sustainability of companies lies with the ability of the people who work for them to create and innovate, with flexibility and agility and to measure the performance of employees based on their ability to make their contributions with those factors in play.

The ability to create, innovate, have flexible systems and agility is critical to the long-term success of companies in technology, education and health care industries right now. In the near future this will become a factor for those organizations that are operating in low-tech fields.

When you look at the core competencies for your organization, do they include creativity, innovation, flexibility and agility? If so, how well are they integrated into the organization? Does your attraction, retention and development system reliably “bake” those competencies into the culture? Does the culture in your organization embrace these competencies? If so, how do you know?

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