Maintain your old Siemens Hipath system

How to Beat the Turf Mentality

Want to hear a fascinating story? Let's sit in at a meeting of the human resources department of a large corporation.

A number of human resources specialists are gathered in the board room. They chat idly to one another as they await the opening of what they expect to be a routine monthly meeting.

The door swings open and the director of human resources strides in. He smiles warmly, greets everybody heartily and spends a minute or two exchanging pleasantries.

Then he drops the bombshell!

"Effective immediately, this department is closed. I'm sorry, but we're all out of a job."

Audible gasps escape from the lips of the doughty professionals seated round the table. The director pauses just long enough to let them get some breath back, and then carries straight on:

"Top management has decided that there needs to be a change in the approach to managing the human assets of this company. From here on, human resources services are going to be delivered in a new way.

"A company is being formed to do that. It's called HR Incorporated. You are welcome to apply for a job. Personally, I hope you do. I would enjoy continuing to work with you. If you want to apply, there are job descriptions and application forms on the table in back. I will start holding interviews tomorrow.

"Oh, by the way. I'm president of the new company. If you have any questions, I'll be in my office. Good luck."

Too stunned to move

The new head of HR Inc. walks out. The former officials of the now defunct human resources department sit glued to their seats, too stunned to move. But after a few minutes, it dawns on some of them that it isn't just a bad dream, and they gingerly make their way to the back table.

However, their confusion is intensified when they see that the descriptions of positions are not comparable to the ones they occupied until ten minutes ago. All the openings listed are for people in production, sales, service, distribution and the like. As the director of HR had said, it is a company in its own right.

So an anxious and bewildered group descend on the office of the former director of human resources.

"As you know, I was thrust into this post of HR director a few months ago," he begins to explain. "We know that our corporation has embarked on a new period of spirited growth. At the same time, our existing HR department has been rapidly losing its effectiveness."

"I tried my best to bring about changes from within. But all I got for my trouble was stiff resistance from you guys.

" I know how it is - some of you have been in the same job for years. Obviously, it's hard for you to change your habits. People call on you for services, for help in solving problems, and you respond in the same way as you always have...

"OK, I understand..but we couldn't go on that way..."

Facing corporate execution, most of the HR personnel finally get the message. Just a couple of diehards - entrenched veterans who don't easily relinquish their turf or forgive blows to their pride - make a beeline for the CEO's office. They demand the impudent young director's head.

The CEO rebuffs them politely but firmly. One person tries the silent treatment, but when her colleagues come to empty out her desk for here, she applies for a new position quickly enough.

During the months that follow, a hitherto decrepit HR outfit becomes infused with an invigorating new lease on life.

No long is it composed of disparate practitioners pulling in different directions - each wanting to defend that piece of turf over which they had disputed rights for years. Harmonious teamwork is now the order of the day.

Innovation...and risk

Jac Fiftz-enz, an authority on human asset management, recounts this episode in his thought-provoking work, The 8 Practices of Exceptional Companies. As a consultant, the author was present at this extraordinary departmental meeting, and uses this episode to introduce his chapter on Innovation and Risk.

As he puts it, "if necessity is the mother of invention, then risk is the father of innovation." The will to innovate and take risks is one of the eight qualities shared by the best companies, referred to in the title of his book.

In this case, the hero of our tale successfully managed the risk that some key people in his department might quit and leave him shot-handed for a while, or worse, that they may force him out of his own job. This opened the way for innovations that led to a more efficient operation.

But I bring this episode here primarily to illustrate another point - a crucial concept that is, as it happens, closely related to another of Jack Fitz-enz's eight principles.

Let's switch our focus slightly for a moment.

Let's look again at the dilemma of a unit of employees functioning below par. But rather than from the perspective of the employer's objectives, let's examine the situation from the standpoint of the workers themselves.

Addressing a conference of HR professionals in San Diego, Randy Evans, vice president for human resources at Intuit Software (Palo Alto, Calif.), talked about employee "ennoblement. He saw this as a process that allows them to deepen their sense of personal meaning and purpose in the workplace.

"Tacking on superficial programs like take-your-pet-to-work is not going to do it," he said. "People need more."

He then referred to Intuit's annual employee survey, which had produced an overall satisfaction rating of 78%. He regarded this as good, but not good enough. A factor analysis found three factors that would drive employee satisfaction from the 78% to 95% level:

  • Being treated with dignity and respect by coworkers;
  • Having a clear idea of how one's work contributed to the overall organizations' work; and
  • Knowing their standing in the organization in terms of how they're performing.

But there is another factor, too, that must contribute in no small measure to an employee's feeling of "ennoblement."

It's human nature to want to be part of something exciting that transcends ourselves. There. There's something more than just personal security or success.

When you talk to people about what's really important to them, they always include their family and the organization to which they belong - whether club, church, ethnic group, university or anything else. Perhaps the most telling examples of this are the sports teams with which we affiliate - even if we have never played that particular game in our lives!

Effective management will harness this potent human force. It's the final answer to the insular mentality of "I must defend my turf at all costs."

As Jac Fitz-enz aptly puts it: "If you can convince people to identify with the corporate vision, you have more than their hands and minds: you have their spirit."

Azriel Winnett is the creator of Hodu. com - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular free website helps you to improve your communication and relationship skills on all levels, in business and professional life, in the family unit, and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.

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