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Commercial drive - Lesson 2: your reflections

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Understanding your organisation. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity:
Give at least one tip for how you gain deeper understanding of an organisation, why you take the approach you do, and how you have overcome potential barriers to access information. 

 

 

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  • I found this lesson fascinating, as I have worked in all 3 sectors, and I find their similarities are greater than their differences. As the lesson says, there are many outcome measures, other than profit that can be used to measure organisational success, in all sectors. As I have moved between sectors, there have been a number of times I have needed to gain a deeper understanding of an organisation.
    The easy starting point is their on-line and published presence - comparing what is on their own website and social media and what can be found on general media or on review sites like Glassdoor or Google. (Even when you are working in an organisation it can be useful to check all this out sometimes - in fact I would recommend it!)
    Then I have found out more by meeting key people from all teams, spending time with them and listening, asking fact-finding questions. I spend time comparing and thinking about what things might be universal and what might be unique, without making assumptions. Then I might test out some assumptions with trusted colleagues.
    An example is moving to work in a local charity who rely heavily for funding on local fundraising. I was used to public sector budgets being set (and cut back within the financial year quite often) and to working as a voluntary trustee for a charity who mostly did work on contracts commissioned by public sector organisations and were paid either a set rate or by results for delivering the work according to the contract specifications. The world of charity fundraising was new to me. I wondered at first why the organisation had not merged with other similar local charities to achieve economies of scale in cost and infrastructure. Compared to public sector organisations I had worked in who had done this, the charity seemed too small to be viable - though it was and still is doing very well in terms of the balance between spending on its services and on spending only what it needs to on corporate infrastructure. The I realised that one of the key determinants of its success is that it is local and much loved and respected by the the local community. Trustees (who are also the Company Directors) volunteers, customers in its charity shops and fundraisers, including local corporates support it because it is a local charity that may well have touched their lives in some way. If it were to become too large, it could lose the sense of being local and therefore the deep sense of engagement the local community have. I see this conclusion reinforced all the time and wonder if local stakeholders who raise lots of funds for us or people who give a lot of their time voluntarily are possibly more powerful than shareholders in a private company?
  • Getting a deeper understanding of an organisation is essential to ensuring you have an accurate viewpoint. I find that engaging with a variety of different stakeholders provides a rounded perspective. Often the actions of different roles or department impacts other roles and departments in different ways. Using the question "and then what" or "what would happen then" encourages people to provide clarity and depth on the points they are trying to articulate. I work remotely so sometimes it can be difficult to keep up to date with all the changes that go on in an organisation. I find it's amazing how much you can pick up just by being present in the office. Therefore when I am in the office I always make the effort to go and speak to a particular person face to face if I have only corresponded with them over email/phone. I also try to keep up to date with different activities, reports, news articles etc to ensure I am up to date with changes within the organisation.
  • Interesting topic. I truly believe that HRM needs to keep up to date with whatever is happening in the sector the business is operating. I work in an R&D organisation and to our business success the interest of stakeholders is absolute must. And the objectives and mission are in sync with them, therefore their support for our org to succeed is constant.
    As an HRM, I am there to promote it throughout the organisation and to embed it within out workforce culture.
    We have implemented some elements of agile model of managing the organisation to achieve the transparency within. Keeping employees in the loop with what is going on with the projects is very important as it gives them sense of higher involvement. And also as the shareholders are keen to succeed.
  • In reply to Annette:

    I agree - its essential to get an external perspective of the business as well as internally. A deeper understanding of how the customers perceive the business is valuable.
  • I've joined a SME 6 months ago from a large NHS Trust. I am on a learning curve as I know little about scaffolding. So I have been observing and talking to staff and managers on what they do and why. On the positive side, because its a small SME I have only a few managers to ask about who has relevant information or what projects are underway. Its been helpful to work with other new managers to the organisation as we are beginning to be seen as the transformation team/innovation team.
  • In reply to Nick Hayes:

    Hi Nick
    I hear that you are driven by curiosity which is great. We can so often get into the trap of thinking we understand and know what is going on. You may find blogs or people on line who may be happy to share more information. Stories and articles in the likes of Harvard Business Review may also give further information.
  • Hi I have worked in many different style of organisations. Private and public sector, charity, scale up tech organisations to start ups to local to large global. Those in the organisation that stand out managed to have a grasp of all the systems they impacted. When I talk about systems it was you, your team, the department, country (or location) and then global internally and then customer and markets the organisations worked in. Systems have all their own needs and perceptions. The more you can get to understand (rather than assume) the better. Asking questions and staying curious is good. Sometimes it might mean asking what appears to be simple things that actually everyone could do with having more information on. Listening, watching and asking questions are key. You can support this with reading business rather than people led articles in the economist, Financial Times, Forbes, Inc , Harvard Business Review. You may find local business breakfasts groups too that could widen your knowledge.
  • In reply to Annette:

    Great share Annette
  • One way I gain an understanding of my organisation is to compare their corporate message with their actions. My organisation, for example, is heavily messaging around connecting people and doing it faster than anyone else, but a lot of their actions don't align with this message. Our own in store connections, for example, can be painfully slow and our technology and ways of working very dated for a company claiming to be at the cutting edge.
    Why i take this approach is because I have an analytical and curious mindset, I like to challenge what I am told. The barriers I have overcome have been an almost cult-like averson to scrutiny and questioning within the company. Some of the issues I have raised have been batted away but not addressed with any real conviction.
  • IT IS A REALLY HELPFUL COURSE!

    I started my first role in the HR field as HR Officer in an IT start up, and I was also one of the first members in HR Team. At that time, I needed to understand organizational structure as well as business in order to have strategic HR plan, which aligned with organizational objectives. I spent a lot of time reading about IT market, I tried to positioned my company in  the market and used SWOT model to deeply understand its strengths, weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats. Besides, I spent time talking with all-level-people within company, including BOD and employees from different departments.

    With all offered plans, I tried to test its effectiveness and suitability with a sample in company try to listen to them. And I realized that employees have a lot of innovative ideas to improve their working process. I tried to take note about it, select it, reflect it and test it before put it into practice.

    After every event, collecting feedbacks is important to improve continuously. Semi-annual employee survey is also necessary to listen to employees about all policies, procedures, etc. Because the company was in the start-up phase, everything seems easy to change and adapt changing environment, until achieving the most suitable ones.

    After nearly 2 years with coming up with new ideas, testing, collecting feedbacks and modifying for the best, the company now has more than 100 people. We tried to build up corporate culture; however, CEO who had excellent specialized and technical skills, but lacking of managerial manners. It was a difficulty for HR Team to convince him about the importance of having organizational culture as well as the role of managers as role model in the company.

    Now I am studying MSc in Human Resource Management and Organization. I hope that after finishing this Master program, I will have more in-depth knowledge to deal with such problems. Hope receive feedbacks and comment from others.

    Thank you very much!

  • IT IS A REALLY HELPFUL COURSE!
    I started my first role in the HR field as HR Officer in an IT start up, and I was also one of the first members in HR Team. At that time, I needed to understand organizational structure as well as business in order to have strategic HR plan, which aligned with organizational objectives. I spent a lot of time reading about IT market, I tried to positioned my company in the market and used SWOT model to deeply understand its strengths, weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats. Besides, I spent time talking with all-level-people within company, including BOD and employees from different departments.
    With all offered plans, I tried to test its effectiveness and suitability with a sample in company try to listen to them. And I realized that employees have a lot of innovative ideas to improve their working process. I tried to take note about it, select it, reflect it and test it before put it into practice.
    After every event, collecting feedbacks is important to improve continuously. Semi-annual employee survey is also necessary to listen to employees about all policies, procedures, etc. Because the company was in the start-up phase, everything seems easy to change and adapt changing environment, until achieving the most suitable ones.
    After nearly 2 years with coming up with new ideas, testing, collecting feedbacks and modifying for the best, the company now has more than 100 people. We tried to build up corporate culture; however, CEO who had excellent specialized and technical skills, but lacking of managerial manners. It was a difficulty for HR Team to convince him about the importance of having organizational culture as well as the role of managers as role model in the company.
    Now I am studying MSc in Human Resource Management and Organization. I hope that after finishing this Master program, I will have more in-depth knowledge to deal with such problems. Hope receive feedbacks and comment from others.
    Thank you very much!
  • In reply to Hong Nhung:

    Thank you Hong, glad you are finding the learning useful.
  • Being brave enough to ask questions of senior leadership helped me massively after not doing exactly that for a very long time - you may know what the current organisational objectives are, but an informal chat with someone senior if you get the opportunity may add some colour to how you can best direct your efforts & open up a chain of dialogue, just by asking them where they see their focus
  • Deeper understanding of an organization can come from following two ways.

    1. By knowing the scope of duties of my superiors and his superior.
    2. By knowing or reading company's Business Plans.

    I have an interest and drive to learn about the bigger picture of the business our company do. I would like to know the objectives of organization, which can give opportunity to find out my-self where I can fit in, i.e,., how my competencies can help me and organization to add value. 

    I didn't experience any barrier in this way, as I show this interest, my managers always disclosed the information I am looking for. Sometime managers are concerned whether they are sharing sensitive or confidential information. If manager knows my intention gaining such knowledge becomes easy.

  • I found the lesson really useful and it was also reassuring to establish that I am actually quite commercially savvy in my outlook and actions. There is much discussion and demand for HR to be 'more commercial' but upon reflection it made me wonder how many of the operational managers in my business and other business I have worked in are. I concluded that unless they had been formally trained then they probably weren't. It is also incumbent upon those that are trained or have experience to share their knowledge and ensure they communicate this to their teams and the wider business rather than withhold it or assume that everyone else knows it. This can take many forms but simply stating where value is added and being open about business performance and not talking in jargon can make a huge difference. We recently had a presentation in the form of a simple graphic which showed what was in the pipeline and opportunities on the horizon and the impact of not gaining new business - everyone got it straight away and we could then have meaningful discussions and debate on how we can better position ourselves to secure that new business regardless of who we were or what our role was.

    Like others in this discussion it is important to ask questions in order to gain a deeper understanding and the great thing is that being in HR you can ask the 'stupid' or obvious questions as very few people will expect you to know the answer. Even better to ask in a open forum as this will help others who may be expected to know the answer but are afraid to speak up to understand as well.