HR Needs to LEAN Up

Recently we’ve been working with organizations on implementing LEAN and Six Sigma. Now before you bail out on me, this blog won’t be about either of those topics…directly. As most of you know, Cirrus is all about helping organizations create shareholder value and become great places to work. One way that value is preserved is through organizational efficiency. That’s why I love the LEAN concepts. Here’s where this impacts HR.

Yes, you should work towards efficiency in all processes across the organization (including HR), but that’s not what I want to focus on here. One of the exercises you go through regularly as part of LEAN is to define the components of the customer value chain. This is a critical exercise, because it brings into sharp focus the features, functionality, and/or services that are truly adding value in the eyes of your consumer. The result is alignment.

Alignment is extremely powerful. Organizations need alignment as much as our bodies and machines. With alignment, efforts are multiplied as the organization begins resonating on the same frequency.

As an HR professional, one of your key functions should be facilitating organizational alignment based upon the culture and objectives of the organization. This alignment should permeate everything from job descriptions to the way performance reviews are conducted.  You should ask yourself how you can work with the rest of the executive team to multiply and reinforce their efforts in creating clarity around the behavioral expectations of your organization’s culture and the organizational objectives.

Compliance is important and critical, but it should not be the primary focus of your HR organization.  Employment laws and EEOC compliance simply define the rules of the game.  The primary role of HR leadership in an organization should be that of human capital optimization, talent development, and talent planning based upon the organization’s objectives, NOT the embedded arm of the EEOC or other labor agency.  You would not expect the CFO of an organization to focus exclusively on compliance with GAAP and tax law.  An effective CFO manages the financial aspects of the organization based upon the organizational objectives within the rules of GAAP and law.  GAAP and tax law  just define the rules of the game.  They affect strategy, but they are not the focus of strategy.  This concept is a major leap for most internal HR organizations, but a very important one.

You should also determine ways to quantify the effectiveness of various HR initiatives.  Put your MBA hat on for a moment.  It is important to measure the return on investment for your your department and any development, hiring, or other initiatives you are implementing to help create clarity and alignment in the organization. This will help you zero in on the initiatives that have the highest organizational impact. You should also be able to clearly state how those initiatives align with the current organizational objectives.

HR professionals, start thinking about how you can be a facilitator of alignment in your organization.  This is where you can add true value to your organization’s value chain.

It’s time for us to all to LEAN up.

The Missing Ingredient of Dysfunctional Teams

Teamwork Cirrus Business Group Photo

Think you need to take your management team out to do some team building activities to get them working together? More than likely the problem goes much deeper than that. While it is good for teams to spend time doing non-work related activities together, it all comes back to this one thing. If your team has it, then maybe they are just out of sync and need some time together to recalibrate. If not, then you better start here.

Continue reading The Missing Ingredient of Dysfunctional Teams

Cirrus-ism for the Day

Naive Enlightenment – When you have just enough experience or data to be too dangerous for your own good.  This exists in a place between ignorance and wisdom.

Top 10 Must-read Business Books

My list of 10 must-read business books in no particular order.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
    (Skill with People by Les Giblin is a good “Cliff Notes” version.)
  2. Developing the Leader Within You – John Maxwell
  3. Leadership and Self Deception – Arbinger Institute
  4. How the Mighty Fall – Jim Collins
  5. Making Ideas Happen – Scott Belsky
  6. Switch – Chip and Dan Heath
  7. The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni
  8. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership – Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, & Marty Linsky
  9. NUTS! – Freiberg & Freiberg
  10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey


What would you add to this list?

The 4 Reasons Teams Fail

Whether a sole proprietor or a cog in a large enterprise, at some point everyone is required to work with a team.  So what is the difference between teams that consistently perform and teams that never seem to get ‘er done?  I’ve identified four reasons teams fail. Continue reading The 4 Reasons Teams Fail

Give It a Rest!

Have you ever found yourself feeling like you just need a break?  Does it constantly feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done?

I’ve been there.  It’s not a peaceful place.

I’ve also experienced great peace while juggling 20 different things.

In the beginning, you probably took time to outline business goals and a plan.  How are you doing on that?  How often to you take time really contemplate what you need to do more or do less?

Before GPS driven auto-pilots, mariners would take navigational readings several times a day to determine if they were on course.  It’s about 3000 miles from London to Boston.  If a ship leaving either port were off by even a couple of degrees at the start, it would miss its destination by over 100 miles!  Because these mariners knew they could not control the winds or ocean currents, they knew they had to determine where they were frequently or risk missing their destination or, even worse, being lost at sea.

If you are inclined as I am to lead by example, it is very easy to spend so much time in your business that you have no time to spend on your business.  It is very easy to just blame it on trying to be a shrewd leader and keep labor costs low.  However, you are doing yourself, your employees, and your customers a huge dis-service if you are not regularly and intentionally taking time to reflect upon the state of your business.

Without this time to back off the day-to-day and look at your business from a higher altitude, it is easy to lose perspective and focus.  Most businesses do not fail in a single glorious moment.  They fail slowly, through a series of poor choices due to lack of focus and knowledge.

By scheduling time to spend on your business, you give yourself the opportunity to re-evaluate your goals, the marketplace, and what you need to do to stay on course.

Because It’s the Right Thing

John Maxwell’s word of the day is “duty”.  As he points out, this is not a very sexy word.  In fact it has a slightly negative connotation to most people.  However, there is much honor in duty.

In this day when you can have it now and make no payments for a year, we often lose site that success in most things comes down to hard work.  Duty – doing something just because it’s the right thing to do and it’s your responsibility to do it.

Things like being an honorable spouse while away on business, setting a good example for your children, and treating people the way you want to be treated.  Often in business, duty is doing those things that seem menial, but are absolutely critical to keep the gears of progress turning.

So today, think about what duties you are responsible for.  Do them with a renewed sense of importance.  As we are seeing with the NFL playoffs, it’s the basics done consistently and well that creates a champion.