HR, Org Design, and Knowledge Management

Thomas Otter pulls together some nice posts and ideas on how “2.0” fits into HR (his post).  From his post…

It seems that HR today needs to do two things here.

1. Get better discipline and control of the formal organisation structures. There are some great new tools to help visualise this. Check out these.

2. Start to focus on the informal, tacit flows. Lateralization is coming, faster than we think.

We’ve concentrated a lot on #2 in our PM KM initiative (see here, here, here, and here).  We need to identify the knowledge “nodes” in our PM community in a way that doesn’t rely on authority or hierarchy.  We’ve done this by tracking newsgroup traffic — i.e., who asks questions, who answers questions, who answers correctly.  We’re also trying to build this into how we recognize and reward PMs.

We’ve never really been able to engage HR on this topic.  KM doesn’t seem to fit in their mental model — when we’ve asked for guidance we’re basically heard that “you’re way ahead of us here.”  From my comment:

It is eye-opening to me to see such forward-thinking views coming from the HCM front.

My experience is that HR folks are among the most resistant to “2.0″ thinking. Ironically, too many are invested in their roles as gatekeepers to change (which shows how much the understand the role of network nodes).

Many HR folks seem stuck in the 1930’s, where we were training folks for assembly line or clerk jobs.  Skill and seniority-based hierarchies were everything (and made sense).  Also, how much of a role is there for traditional HR roles in a horizontal (and potentially self-organizing) structure?

Of course, it is easy to bash other functions.  The project, program, and portfolio management disciplines fall prey to a variation on this mindset: too many PMs get stuck in their cubes because they like to focus on the “old school” structured tasks of schedule, issue, and budget management.  When they do softer stuff like stakeholder management, they tend to follow the hierarchy or the explicit structure (and miss informal channels or mistake formal assent for acceptance or enthusiasm).

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