1. We Are All Designers

HR by Design

One of the simplest but most amazing things about agreeing to embrace a design perspective is how it brings clarity to just about every conversation, meeting and business encounter.  By way of reminder, design-thinking means acting with intention against a desired outcome; anything not done by design happens by accident.

For example, a couple months ago, in an executive committee planning meeting, we were focused on designing the future of our company and discussing the best way to prepare our people for inevitable organizational changes. One of our most sage members observed that we’ve introduced a number of big changes over the last few years, and with each one, we apologize to our people and assure them that everything will settle down soon. But of course, it doesn’t. “The new world order,” he said, “requires us to build an organization that thrives on change. There really is no other way.”

He’s right, of course. More importantly, this is probably true for just about any large company or association that has been in business for more than 30 years. We all need to stop apologizing and start designing a plan that will enable our people to be masters of transformative change. And we need to make this someone’s Number One priority. In fact, Freeman recently named Martha May as EVP of People and Inclusion for this very reason. Martha can help us rethink the Human Resources capability—and champion the kind of training, coaching, recruiting and motivation that anticipates the mandates of change. Most companies are seeking new people with new skill sets; many are acquiring entire companies and trying to assimilate those new people into the organization’s culture. So there is a huge need for leaders who can act as a strategic partner, an advocate for employee-owners, and a change agent.

Here’s how I like to frame it: the leader in charge of People and Inclusion needs to ensure that the people running the space ship are the kind of people who can take it where we want it to go. We don’t need people who can simply follow a chart; rather, we need people who know how to plot a course, motivate the crew, launch, and then course-correct as obstacles arise or better information becomes available. Which is sure to happen.

And think about this: if the new world order involves non-stop change, it’s even more critical that the person leading human resources understands how to screen for people who reflect the organization’s cultural values – which DO NOT CHANGE. This isn’t as counter-intuitive as it sounds. When people share common values, it gives them a bedrock to stand on when everything else is in motion.  We are delighted to have found that kind of solid leadership at Freeman. Welcome, Martha!