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Engaged HR is pleased to welcome guest blogger and DisruptHR speaker Karissa Sovdi, HR Program and Projects Manager with the University of Victoria. Karissa’s blog outlines her talk “How to Smell a Dead Body” at DisruptHR 2.0 with the full length video available below. 

As Peter Senge said, “Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions,” yet all too often, the energy we had when developing yesterday’s strategy is depleted by today’s urgency. In fact, we may not even notice when an initiative has outlived its usefulness, or worse, that it is no longer living at all. Keeping our HR tools from drifting into the solution graveyard unnoticed requires that we are aware of when our ideas start to smell like death. So how do we maintain our sense of smell?

Use Expiry Dates: Have you ever caught yourself saying “We JUST did that” about something that was already 5 or more years old? It is just too easy to lose track of time, especially when we consider the maintenance demanded by our everyday emails, phone calls, meetings, interventions, crisis solutions, etc. We have to ensure frequent reviews of our initiatives are scheduled into our operations, so that strategic review becomes as routine and as uneventful as cleaning out the fridge.

Have you ever caught yourself saying “We JUST did that” about something that was already 5 or more years old?Twitter_logo_blue

Rely on Other Noses: We can’t smell our own stink! Continuous consultation has to be standard practice. We need this both at the strategic level where we align to the mandate set by our organizational leaders and visionaries, and at the practical operational level, where we are connected to the pulse of the front line. Read strategic documents, host focus groups, crash team meetings, circulate surveys, network incessantly, or do whatever else you can to find (maybe even hire), people who will give you feedback. And by feedback, I don’t just mean praise! We can’t just surround ourselves with our supporters and our groupies and expect diversity in what we produce. We need to invite the naysayers, the challengers, and the please-God-don’t-let-them-actually-come-to-the-meeting people to keep us from sitting in our own stink.

Brave the Smell Test: Inviting multiple opinions will require us to be brave! We must hold the tension between the ideas we like and the ideas we hate, the people we like and the people we hate, upper and middle management, executive and front line, the high-level and the super-practical, and all of the other opposites we might encounter in passing the jug of milk around so that everyone can take a whiff. Because not resolving the tension and holding the discomfort is what keeps things alive! If we have full agreement, we may not be pushing the edge of what is possible. We have to let go of consensus as an indicator of success, because once there is consensus there is no reason to talk. And we need to talk.

Stay Curious About Other Smells: If we truly believe that our strength is our people, then our HR tool kits cannot be filled with documents that prescribe us all the right answers. Instead, they must be teeming with mechanisms that force us to ask great questions. Provoking curiosity and asking questions at all levels is less about ticking the boxes, and more about aiming for emotional resonance. Because it’s from that place of inquiry and feeling that we gain permission to approach an old concept in a new way, to allow the ideas of the past to fertilize and cultivate the future, and to compost, rather than bury, the amazing ideas and influences of prior endeavours.

So, let us come to our senses in the name of strategy and in the pursuit of attracting, hiring, and retaining people who don’t stink, by choosing gardening over grave-robbing.

Learn more with Karrisa’s 5 minute DisruptHR Talk “How to Smell a Dead Body: Knowing When Your HR Initiatives Need Resuscitation”.

Disclaimer: All content provided in this blog is the opinions expressed by the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of Engaged HR.

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