Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | March 28, 2010

HR: Concepts What Does it Take to Make Things Happen?

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR

“Why can’t we make things happen around here?” asked the HR Manager. “Why don’t they support our programs and initiatives?”

Her frustration was well placed. After hours of meetings, reams of memos, reports and e-mails, as well as way too many phone calls, another HR initiative had fallen on its face. It was a huge investment with no result. It would not necessarily show on the balance sheet. It would have an effect on HR credibility. It would slow future efforts to create change.

Why?  Why does this happen so many times?  Why do all the well-intended efforts of a new program, a new approach or a new idea collapse and whither hopelessly away?  The answer is simple. One of the four required legs under the table of change is short, missing or weak. What are those legs?  They are (1) a defining policy, (2) a support system, (3) visible reinforcement and (4) a designated champion. Let’s look at each of them.

1. A defining policy:
If you want to do something, you have to tell people how you want it done. A policy explains what is supposed to be done and how it is supposed to be done. It must be simple, clear and understandable. It must be written for the people who have to follow it, not the people who need to approve it. It must consider alternatives and problems that will surely arise. It must be flexible. It must be redefined when it is not doing what it is supposed to do. It does not have to be pages and pages long. It can be one page. It has to do one thing well. It has to paint a clear picture of what is expected in the mind of each person who is expected to follow it.

2. A support system:
Nothing happens if things are not in order. Contractors call it a punch list. It is a list of things that have to be finished, fixed or in place before the occupant can occupy the building. It is usually a lot of little things, but if the contractor wants to be paid, the contractor has to do them.  In an organization it is a form, a well executed meeting, equipment delivered on time or a myriad of little details that someone, somewhere must tend to. They are not forgotten. They are not misplaced. They are done with great care. If you want to see attention to detail, check out a Mary Kay Cosmetics sales award ceremony.

3. Visible reinforcement:
Any Psychology 101 student can tell you that people do what they are rewarded for doing. Rewards are not limited to money. If you want people to march to a different drummer, you have to reward them in many different ways. Thank you is a good place to start. Tell me about what you are doing is another. Do you have any ideas for making this go better? is my favorite.

The most important reinforcement is behavior, in particular, management behavior. When employees see leaders practicing expected behaviors and supporting HR initiatives, they are much more likely to do what they are supposed to do. One manager, for example, attended a sexual harassment prevention workshop. Immediately following the workshop, the manager went over the corporate harassment policy with her staff. She reinforced how important the policy was and how much she supported it. When employees hear their manager reinforcing the value and importance of a policy, they are much more likely to follow it. Dr. Daniel Aldrich was the founding Chancellor of the University of California, Irvine. During his twenty plus years as Chancellor, he was often seen picking up trash with his bare hands on his way to and from meetings on the campus. When the Chancellor picks up trash…  Well, you get the idea.

4. A designated champion:
Peter Drucker coined the term MONO-MANIAC WITH A MISSION. It is one of my favorites. If you want something done right, you have to put someone in charge that has a nearly religious fervor for the desired end-result. In fact, Dr. Drucker pointed out that the best program leader is usually a volunteer; a volunteer who drives you nuts, but pays attention to details. A volunteer who will not take no for an answer and finds a way to make things happen despite roadblocks, obstacles and low budgets – a volunteer who does not need a fancy title, a big pay raise or a huge office. A volunteer who thinks a sincere THANK YOU is the organizational equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Next time you see a program struggling, a process not working, a deadline being missed, come back to the table. Look carefully at the legs. Make sure all four of them are long enough and strong enough to carry the load. If they aren’t, get to work on them.

Mike Deblieux, SPHR, is a Human Resources Consultant. He provides onsite-coaching support for supervisors and managers. He presents seminars on people management topics. Mike writes HR Concepts to help HR professionals better understand and use fundamental HR principles. Mike can be reached at

Copyright 2010 PIHRA


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: