Friday, September 26, 2003

Human Resources?
Today's print edition of Financial Times carries an article that....well, let it speak for itself:

There are probably 100 studies out there showing that you get a 30 to 40 per cent productivity and profit advantage by treating people in the right way," says Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford business school..."as other sources of competitive success have become less important, what remains as a crucial differentiating factor is the organisation, its employees, and how they work...." On this view the obssession of managers with mergers and acquisitions, downsizing and strategy prevents them from seeing the more sustainable gains from managing human capital."

So how come managers still act like jerks?

Is this the fault of business schools for mis-educating modern managers? Says Prof. Pfeffer: "Before I would blame business schools I would blame business journalists. They contributed mightily to the cult of celebrity CEOs and the idea that you can achieve success through these quick fixes."

With all due respect to Prof. Pfeffer, before I blamed either one, I would blame the pervasive managerial fallacy that places the worker on the debit side of the ledger. And you can pinpoint exactly when it happens in any workplace: when the personnel department becomes "Human Resources".

"Human Resources" places the worker in the same context as raw materials or office supplies. It allows management to indulge in "organizational transformation," through "redesigning of the human resources system," by "implementing organization development interventions" to "strengthen organizational relationships" with the goal of "improving effectiveness and productivity".(*)

I dare you to find the human being in that maze.

For some, this is all to the good: In this more volatile world, out go...paternalism and the expectation of long-term employment; in comes a more-free-wheeling world in which notions of loyalty are replaced by constant competition for talent... Prof. Lawler's brand of people management has a hard-edge. He describes a future in which employees will need to shoulder responsibility for managing their own careers and keeping their skills current.

"The old-style 'loyalty contract' is in many ways counter-productive. It tends to attract people who want secure, predictable employment rather than those who want to be part of a rapidly changing, entrepreneurial organisation," he says.

Somehow, I misdoubt me that Ford wants say, welders, turning into entrepreneurs on the line. Or, in my own business, would I want a clerk to suddenly get creative with the Library of Congress classification system. Yet a good welder and a good clerk are essential to our product. And in both cases, the more experienced they are, and the more they understand the product, the better it will be for our organizations. But most HR gurus would encourage management to treat these folks as expendable.

If my clerk quits tomorrow I am going to have to (1)do her job while interviewing prospects; (2)interview prospects; (3)hire someone; (4)train them; (5)supervise them closely to make sure the training took; (6)retrain if necessary; (7)fire that person if they didn't work out; (8)start all over again. In the meantime, my own stuff is going to hell in a handbasket, everything is slowing down to a crawl, and people are screaming. And to just put the cork in the bottle, if I luck out and get a good prospect right off the bat, if that person is one of those "entrepreneurial types," she will immediately start pursuing higher paid/better employment with all the knowledge I put in her head. Wouldn't it just be easier to just KEEP THE FIRST CLERK HAPPY IN THE FIRST PLACE?

When the heck did we lose our common sense?

(*)This means "we are going to downsize the staff by 20%, shove the work onto those who are left while cutting their benefits--and don't even think about a raise!. Human Resources idiots will hold a series of mandatory brown-bag lunch meetings (out of the goodness of our hearts we will provide sodas) to tell you how wonderful this will be to our bottom line. At the end of the quarter we will show a .5% rise in our stock and management will be voted million dollar raises by their buddies on the Board of Trustees, and next year we start all over again.

The 2003 Television Season: Not as Bad as Threat Matrix
I'm here to damn with faint praise the new Jag spinoff, Navy NCIS.

It's just as bad on plot, but it's got some humor, which papers over a lot of the cracks, Mark Harmon, who is still first-class eye-candy, and David McCallum, who has aged into a sparkly teddy bear. And they can actually sometimes act.

Not bad.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Bopping Around the Blogosphere...
Here's Kevin on education.

And Jeanne on the new voting machines.

And DeLong on why John Snow is not such a good thing for the United States economy.

And a sublime picture from Peggy, who should really consider doing a book of photographs...

And Emma Goldman on the non-existent documents about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

And P.G. Gandy over at Open Source Politics, on why the stupid partial birth abortion ban stinks.

And Julia and Teresa on pretty much everything because they're so much fun!

It's Soooo Nice not Having to Stand in Line!
I've disliked Arnold "the Terminator" for years. So these days, when the smarmy, arrogant, shallow git gets clobbered, I just sit there with a satisfied grin.

Before the conservatives start barking, let me assure you, I find Jane Fonda equally annoying. It has nothing to do with their politics.

Arnold always looks as if he's having a good laugh at someone's expense; Jane always sounds as if she were dispensing wisdom from On High.

Neither one makes for someone I want to see on my tv set, intoning "my fellow citizens..."