Saturday, December 8, 2007

Of Ghosts, Blogs and Undigested karma

This month, 'Simplicity at the other side of complexity' is completing one year. When I started this blog, I wasn't sure about how it was going to evolve. One year and forty posts later, the situation remains more or less the same, though some patterns have emerged.

The nature of posts in this blog has become more focused - on Human Resources, Organization Development and Personal Effectiveness (as opposed to being scattered in the broader domains of 'life and work'). The posts have also become more 'experience driven' - with the concept/ theory part limited mainly to concepts/inferences that emerge from the situations/experiences. I got to know a quite a few great people through this blog and I have greatly benefited from the interactions with them. Of late ,I have noticed that the comments/ discussions around many of the posts are longer (and more interesting !) than the posts themselves ! (see 'Career Planning and the myth of Sisyphus')

It is interesting to note that this 'evolution' mirrors (to some extent) the basic theme of this blog - 'Simplicity @ the other side of Complexity'. By the way, I have kept the name of blog as 'Simplicity at the other side of Complexity' (as opposed to 'simplicity on the other side of complexity'), to stress the point that this simplicity is something that one 'arrives at' (with a significant amount of effort) after working through/wrestling with the complexity. This blog also gave me the opportunity to explore the paradoxes and opportunities in the people management domain. I am sure that the process of grappling with these paradoxes and dilemmas has helped a lot in enriching my understanding of the HR/OD domain in particular and life in general!

There is a concept in 'Tantric philosophy' that ghosts get created because of 'undigested karma'. I feel that 'ghosts' could get created in the domain of thoughts also - because of 'undigested incidents' (i.e. the undigested thoughts arising from the incidents). The ideal way to exorcise these ghosts is to listen to them, revisit those incidents/thoughts and deal with them properly to ensure that the thoughts/ideas are digested/absorbed/integrated. In a way, it is very similar to the regurgitation/'chewing the cud' behavior of some animals (called 'ruminants'). This blog has given me an opportunity to exorcise quite a few of such ghosts (see 'Competencies and Carbohydrates' for an example).

Many of my posts contain stories (fables, legends, anecdotes and myths). I feel that it is mainly because of the nature of the thoughts discussed in those posts. Many of these thoughts/ideas deal with things like 'reality', 'essential nature', 'meaning', 'wisdom' etc. that are very difficult to express in words.

Stories have the capability to 'capture' complex meanings , though these 'meanings' are not contained in the words/text of the story. Actually, the role of the words/text of the story is to 'trigger' the 'meaning' in the mind of the reader. Thus, stories can be very useful in capturing and communicating thoughts/ideas/ meanings that are difficult to verbalize. The other option is to use complex (unusual) combination of words and symbols to try to communicate the thoughts/ideas/meanings that we are talking about. This could come across as 'using big words' and often it fails to meet the objective. Hence I feel that stories present a much more elegant solution. Of course, my favorites are myths - as myths allow us to transcend even the 'limitations' imposed by reality! (see 'So true that it can't be real').

I find the process of generating an idea, letting it evolve & crystallize in the mind and capturing it in a blog post is highly rewarding intrinsically. Blogging is also a form of self expression that is aligned to my 'INTJ' personality type.  These along with the opportunity to exorcise ghosts, to make problems disappear and to interact with wonderful people have made my first year of blogging a deeply enriching experience for me!.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Of deep-specialists and jumping around

This post is on one of my favorite topics : 'deep-specialist' roles in internal HR. Please see here (Specialist roles in internal HR - An endangered species ?) and here (Business alignment of specialists) for previous posts in this domain. The first post explored if these deep-specialist roles are becoming fewer in number. This post is about another related dimension : the average time that these 'deep-specialists' spend in a particular organization.

When we say 'deep-specialist' roles, we are talking about those roles in internal HR that require deep specialist skills/expertise in one of the functional areas in HR (e.g. organization development, reward management, leadership development etc.). It takes many years to develop skills/ expertise to this level. Often, this would also imply that

(A) Very few people can become deep specialists in more than one area

(B) Deep-specialists are high cost resources to hire/ maintain.

If we combine (A) and (B) above; it can lead to some interesting scenarios. (A) would imply that most deep-specialists would find it hard to find another deep-specialist role that they can move into within the organization. (B) would imply that the deep-specialist would have to maintain a very high level of contribution/value addition to justify his/ her cost. For this to happen there has to be a very close match between the the skill/ expertise area of the deep-specialist and the needs of the organization. Now the problem is that in many organizations the 'needs' (that necessitated the hiring of the deep-specialist) change - often quite quickly. This could happen because of many reasons - including those related to the changes in the business and/or those related to the HR strategy/structure/operating model. Now if the the 'original needs' (that necessitated the hiring of the deep-specialist) don't exist any more, that puts our deep-specialist in a peculiar situation : he/she can't maintain the high level of value to justify his/her cost and also he/she can't move into another role in the organization. So this could force the deep-specialist to leave the organization/look for another organization that provides a better fit. However, it could just be a matter of time before the same story gets repeated in the new organization. Again, if we assume that the above changes in business/HR happen frequently, 'logically speaking', this should lead to relatively shorter tenure for deep-specialists.

Since I know that a purely logical approach might not always lead to correct conclusions, I decided to do some sort of a 'reality check'. I spoke to some of my friends (who are deep-specialists) and asked them what is the average tenure they look at when they take up a new job. The answer : about 4-5 years in terms of aspiration and about 2-3 years in terms of the likely result. I feel that these (relatively small) numbers and especially the gap between the 'aspired figure' and the 'likely figure' for tenure, seem to support the inference/line of reasoning regarding the 'relatively short average tenure for deep-specialists'. Of course, this is far from being any sort of conclusive proof ! May be (since I am a 'deep-specialist at heart') I am just looking for excuses to jump around frequently !

What do you think?