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Can hr become a better
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Can hr become a better


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  • 1. 1Can HR Become a Better “Organizational Surgeon”?Friday, June 19, 2009*by Maurizio MorselliWith layoffs and downsizings all around us, I wonder whether HR can help ensure that these "staff-ectomies" arecarefully planned and cut no deeper than absolutely necessary.Organizations and individuals are faced with new challenges every day. The global “FDD” (fiscal decadence disorder) is thelatest malady that has created enormous pressures to carry out expeditious procedures such as cost/resourcereductions or reductions at the personal level. And, for those of us still working, there is the pressure of trying to be astrategic partner at the organizational level, for organizations affected with myriads of challenges such as to where toreduce costs and staff; what procedures to carry out? And all with some known side effects felt throughout the entireorganizational organism. But what is the cure? What should the organizational physician and his or her team do?Enter the Organizational SurgeonsMany “coping strategies” or so-called “cures” are being quickly prescribed to deal with this malady. Ourmanagement teams convene in the “operating room” and decide quickly where to “cut” and what organs to remove. Thesimplest strategies—eliminating staff and outsourcing activities that are not core—appear to be immediate quick fixes ormeasures that can at least stop the bleeding. They can, however, (and we should know it) carry their own risks and sideeffects.Downsizing (also euphemistically called “rightsizing”) and reductions in force (RIFs) unfortunately become theprocedures/protocols of choice. Indeed, they can expeditiously restore a semblance of renewed organizational healthalmost overnight. While I certainly admit that surgery may be required when organizational survival is at stake, I stronglybelieve that the downsizing scalpel wielded without proper diagnosis and careful thought about “post operational”consequences, can lead to serious, irreparable damage to core competencies and the loss of critical institutionalknowledge.The deleterious results will be seen in a reduced ability to innovate, to take creative risks, to execute business plans asoriginally envisioned and, in general, to succeed in a globalized economy that is becoming fiercely competitive,entrepreneurial, and extremely focused on utilizing knowledge as a core asset. Now, more than ever, knowledge,
  • 2. 2information, and content are key resources of the firm. Did the surgeons consider the organizational value of institutionalknowledge?Knowledge plays a critical role with respect to performance, both with the individual worker and at the organizationallevel. Moreover, the knowledge required is a moving target, forever in flux—it is a living organism. It evolves constantly as aresult of the rate, volume, and nature of changes occurring within organizations and in their environments. The central roleof knowledge, and its fluid nature, brings to the fore the significance of organizational strategies for developing anddeploying content that conveys useful knowledge.When we downsize, we remove important informational, institutional connective tissue. Without the staff who oncehad that knowledge and who used its content effectively and contextually in the culture of the firm, the firm is at adisadvantage, and it may have compounded the problem by creating side organizational stressors that will not go away.My Question to All of UsThe question I am trying to answer is: how can the HR function be (or become, if it’s not) an effective member of thecorporate operating room ensuring that: Unnecessary “operations” are not carried out. Necessary “operations” are approached with diligent diagnosis and are the least invasive possible. Quality of life (for all, not just the executive team) after the “operation” is seriously considered. Alternate therapies have been sought before rushing in with the scalpel. Postoperative health maintenance has been considered thoroughly as part of the “pre-op” process.In the meantime, diagnose well, consider all side effects and, if absolutely necessary, operate with care!*The article appeared originally in 2009 in Maurizio Morselli’s column in the HR Daily Advisor of BLR (Business LegalReports); Originally entitled: Can HR Cure FDD (Fiscal Decadence Disorder)?Maurizio Morselli is a multilingual Human Resources Development consultant and professor and specializes in ExecutiveCoaching, Management Development and Business English for Professionals. He is passionate about the health oforganizational systems. He can be reached at