It's time to reinvent management. You can help.


bruce-lewin's picture

6 Processes for HR Transformation

By Bruce Lewin on June 8, 2013

This hack draws together the ideas and concepts behind the 5 other hacks submitted, see below for a list. It should be seen as a hack that ties the others together and considers their combined implications for the HR function as a whole.

Gary Hamel laid out a compelling vision of HR at the start of the Hacking HR Mix:

HR is already a partner to business in many change management efforts, but HR’s impact would be many times greater if it played a lead role in eliminating the barriers to adaptability and in building new capabilities that facilitate proactive change.  This is particularly true for aspects of the management model that HR drives directly, such as change management, organizational design, talent acquisition and deployment, learning and development, and performance review.

The idea is to present a series of new concepts, processes and business cases that when combined have the potential to re-conceptualise and 're-cast' HR in a completely new light.

The Hack

Re-conceptualising HR has two requirements, new ideas and new ways of working. New ideas need new mental models and new ways of thinking. A new perspective, if you will. Additionally, these ideas must be simple to explain and easily understood.

In similar fashion, new ways of working requires the creation of new methods, new capabilities and new processes. These methods need to be practical and easy to implement.

The Hack in Practice - A New Mental Model

As outlined in Predicting Relationships and Group Values, 4G offers a number of new ideas, best summarised as 'a new mental model and accompanying set of conceptual skills'. While the predictive nature of 4G is perhaps the best starting point, combining Social Profiles, Social Relationships and Social Groups with Relationship Friction and the Visual Team Builder software goes a long way to creating a new mental model for the HR function and HR practitioners.

The Hack in Practice - New Methods and Processes

While the core components of 4G combine to create a new mental model, there is also a need to create new processes and areas of practice. Given the 5 previous hacks, 6 new business processes/areas of practice are presented, all of which can be driven directly by HR, or worked on in conjunction with the business and HR providing expert input when needed.

  1. An L&D syllabus that adapts and personalises content and leverages Economies of Learning.
  2. A recruitment process that adapts for relational and values fit with a person's manager and immediate colleagues.
  3. A team creation process based on maximising group cohesion, interpersonal fit and shared values.
  4. Helping managers improve team management, decision making, engagement and coaching via the Visual Team Builder.
  5. The upfront and systematic identification of change 'champions' and 'sceptics' as part of change management work, along with knowing how to leverage the input of champions and avoid delays from potential sceptics.
  6. Incorporating quantifiable measures of individual and team relationships enables HR to show a financial impact on the outcome of the processes above, along with enhancing the granularity and contextual relevance of performance management processes.

Naturally, adopting all 6 processes at once would likely be unwieldy but by starting with one or two that are most appropriate, an organisation would be well placed to begin adapting the work carried out by the HR department and those directly affected by the processes in question. It's important to learn to walk before trying to run!

A Historical Context

Given the potential for these hacks to create a new mental model of HR, along with new processes and practices, it's worth looking at how other new approaches have come into being and how they have developed and grown.

As can be seen below, there is a well established history of organisation's developing and perfecting a particular business or innovation internally, before the innovation itself is more widely adopted externally. Consider the following examples:

Two more recent examples involving sales force automation and the creation of credit default swaps (CDS). Although CDS's are not a process per-se, they have been a major innovation in investment banking and treasury functions, not to mention a key factor in the credit crunch of 2008.

  • The ideas behind Sales Force Automation and CRM were developed in-house at Oracle, with head of Direct Marketing, Tom Siebel leaving to form Siebel Systems in 1993.
  • JP Morgan created the use of Credit Default Swaps in 1994 via a transaction with Exxon.

In addition to the 7 scenarios above, other examples stand out for complementary but different reasons. These all highlight how a market leading organisation effectively endorsed and promoted a third party innovation, typically by partnering with the original innovator in question.

  • The Hay Group partnered with David McClelland to promote the use of Competency Frameworks.
  • The Hay Group also partnered with Daniel Goleman to promote Emotional Intelligence.
  • The Balanced Scorecard was endorsed by Kaplan and Norton in the Harvard Business Review (incidentally, the write up of Business Process Re-engineering in 1990, also in HBR, isn't dissimilar to the history and development of the Balanced Scorecard).


Given the historical examples above, perhaps the only implication of this final hack is that to reach maximum potential and to change HR in a meaningful and sustained manner, any new and innovative HR tool, process or practice needs to be part of a organisational skunkworks.

The CEO of the CIPD, Peter Cheese thinks this is a good idea, so watch this space!

Possible Barriers to the Mini Hacks

The 6 hacks above highlight various applications of 4G and in this sense, they are all related and all showcase different examples of the same core idea. That said, the following barriers have been identified and where appropriate, alternatives and workarounds are presented.

No Interest in Innovation

Naturally, if someone doesn't have an interest in innovation, then they're unlikely to want to engage with anything novel, new or that might have been the result of a HR Hackathon! Such a scenario will also occur in groups, where some people are very interested in innovation, whilst other people are more sceptical. That said, if sufficient sponsorship is available, the methods outlined in Predictive Change Management may well help resolve this.

More broadly, any 'hack', or specifically, the idea of a 'Physics of People' is likely to attract as many interested people as it does cynics and critics.  There's nothing new in this and it's worth reading a blog post from Seth Godin on the subject, We Can Do It, as a good antidote to this.

Challenges to the Status Quo and Vested Interests

Predicting relationships and group dynamics can challenge some people's assumptions about what is possible in HR and people management. Some may not think such a thing can be done while others will believe that they can 'already do this' and have no need for a new approach[1]. As above, there is no 'solution' to such scepticism, other than to find people interested enough to explore further.

More broadly, the predictive elements of the hacks may challenge office politics and vested interests. People who have built relationships through political means, or whose career progression has required the investment of political capital may find elements of these hacks a threat to their career or current status. Given the nature of organisational life, this is expected and is perfectly understandable. In addition, these scenarios are typically concentrated towards the top of organisation where power and political capital are concentrated. Given this scenario and that is it likely to be found in virtually all organisations, it is prudent to begin experimenting with the different hacks in areas of the business that are lower down the hierarchy, where political capital is in short supply and where the levels of sponsorship from senior people are abundant.


1. Naturally, there are a number of very experienced practitioners, managers and facilitators who have developed their own excellent ability for 'what works' when it comes to relationships, team dynamics, values and group cohesion. This skill is clearly unique and of great value. That said, it typically suffers from limitations on time, a lack of scalability and subjectivity (i.e. does a consensus orientated outcome emerge from this person's approach, or does it only work for them).

Please read the other hacks I've submitted:

  1. Predicting Relationships and Group Values - Creating A New Mental Model and Set of Conceptual Skills
  2. Relational Recruitment and Optimising Team Creation for Group Cohesion
  3. Better Engagement through Enhanced Decision Making, Personalised Coaching and Aligning the Management of Processes and People
  4. Predictive Change Management and Creating an “Army” of Change Agents
  5. Linking HR Metrics to Financial Outcomes - Quantifying Behaviour and Linking it to the Bottom Line
HR process being hacked:Other

You need to register in order to submit a comment.

frederic-jleconte's picture

I appreciate the effort of multi-dimension prism hacking, as much as documentation.
Not at all a a synthesis, but for the sake of a cherry-picking highlight, I select your point # 5 /6 Methods &Processes within this combo hack :
" ....systematic identification of change 'champions' and 'sceptics'.... and encourage hackers invest times to get through your 5 elements.
I learned about "Skunkworks" today thanks to your post.

bruce-lewin's picture

Hi Frederic, thank you for your comment and feedback... I hope you enjoyed reading everything...