CIPD HRD 2013 – Thoughts & Observations from Day 2

Day2wordleThis next installment comes to you as fly across the Atlantic, cruising at 40,00ft – as only MrAirmiles would. I thought I’d capture my thoughts before jetlag kicks in and the Florida sun distracts me even further.

I have to confess I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from day two of #CIPDHRD13. Day one had left me flat and upon reflection a little numb. I had enjoyed two of the sessions but I still felt a lack of passion and energy for L&OD around the exhibition & conference. With a few exceptions, the majority were very quiet and subdued – either they were a quiet bunch (an unlikely L&D trait) or they had pure and simply misplaced their mojo.

Undecided which sessions to attend: Mentoring in the Workplace or Developing Internal Talent, Alison and I eventually picked one each. Having just joined us for day 2, Alison went to the Mentoring session, about which she eloquently wrote on her blog, and I, for once, arrived a little late for Developing Internal Talent, at which point Nick Pascazio of the BBC had already stared his session.

First impressions count (old cliché, I know, but true) and I wasn’t really drawn in by Nick’s presentation. He seemed a little unprepared and it made my mind wander elsewhere. Still, was interesting to hear about the effort the BBC puts in place to develop internal talent – both in terms of technical and managerial expertize, until another 3×3 matrix appeared! Yet again we’re focusing on top talent. A sign of BBC’s bureaucratic culture and heavy governance?  Why does everything has to fall into a box? BBCiPlayer could have been a reality 2 years earlier guys….

On the plus side, it was refreshing to hear how they pair their “top talent” with “top talent” of their suppliers and partners, to help develop their internal talent.

Then, like a bolt of lightning in comes Andy Lancaster from Hanover Housing. There was colour, energy, images, passion, action, belief, inspiration, you name it. Even his shoes were cool!

I wanted to tweet and take notes but was totally mesmerized listening and this was just 2 minutes in. Andy also used a great example to share with the group – how it started with an “itch in between your shoulder blades and you just have to scratch it”. You can’t let it go – “ if there’s an itch there’s a way”.

How Andy and his team went about doing it, how they created energy at all levels of the organization, including their suppliers, to me summed up what OD is all about. It should touch everyone in the organization, not just a privileged few, everyone has to own it (not owned by one single individual) and want to be part of the end result.

Doug & Sukh already blogged about Andy’s session and did a great job of it, so I won’t repeat go over it again – you can read it here: (Blown Away) (Developing Internal Talent)

Andy’s enthusiasm and passion are infectious. He’s captivating and makes you want to work for him. Talk about how to set the bar high that early in the day. I left feeling energized and happy that, despite the previous day experiences, there were some passionate L&OD professionals out there who still believed and cared for and in what they did. Thanks Andy!

People say you should quit when you’re ahead but when you’re buzzing like that after Andy’s session you just want to keep going, so Alison and I went to the next session: L&D to Support High Performing and High Potential Employees. The other choice was Aligning Your Internal Development Programmes to External Qualifications. We thought we’d picked the best of a bad bunch…

“I’m not one of those L&OD professionals who likes to use powerpoint” was Karl White’s opening line. Now, Karl is OD Manager for Mercedes Benz – if he doesn’t like powerpoint, why the slides? If you really believe in what you say you live it, right? Is that not one of the values of OD?

What unraveled over the next couple of minutes made me feel really angry. He came in to MB to make some changes, and let’s just say few, if any, of his “old training team” are still there. If I hadn’t wanted to hear Amanda Whiteford, Head of L&D a Tubelines speak next I would have got up and left. Some of his remarks were just …

We were shown slide after slide, model after model, and more graphs, mostly in black & white. Don’t get me wrong, my organization uses the same approach & framework to leadership development as Mercedes Benz, but even I wouldn’t stand there and inflate my ego with “here’s another model I like”! I certainly wouldn’t show a cool, state of art video about Leadership Development in my organization featuring me talking on it. Would they have done the same if they had Zero Spend? I doubt it…

If Andy Lancaster had sparked energy in me 30 mins earlier, Karl had completely killed most of it in less than 5 mins.

Amanda’s example was far less about her and she certainly didn’t feature in the video about Tubelines. There was a glimmer of hope. For starters she is more softly spoken and less egocentric. Amanda took over an existing team, which, as she described was doing a good job. She just just had to make the most of it and get them to do things differently. Tubelines has put a fair amount of effort in developing a leadership development program that includes the usual coaching, mentoring, on the job learning, etc. Good to know I’m not doing similar things. At the heart of it is L&D as a facilitator and enabler of conversations and dialogue. Like creating a new water cooler space for people to come and talk about their leadership and development aspirations. They developed a simple career development template to promote exactly that – discussion and ownership by the individuals. Not only that, but individuals had to define what they wanted to get out of it, what capabilities they wanted to develop, even if outside of their role, and, along the process develop their own succession planning in case they had moved on.

There was no guarantee of a job or a promotion at the end of it, sometimes even in the next year. It was about equipping people so they felt ready to take those roles when they came up. Being honest with people about this reality was a the biggest challenge but one they had to have, even if that meant employees would leave the organization.

Total contrast in presentation style and connection with the audience. One hour later I read a tweet saying they were still in the room answering questions…

As the inside temperature at Olympia rose, I made my way to Naomi Stanford’s session: Understanding and Developing your OD Capabilities.  Talking about OD & change management after lunch, really? Yes, really and if anyone knows how to do it, without a facilitator that person is Naomi. In no time she had everyone talking to each other about one capability they had developed in the last year. Hers was to use Twitter – Naomi rocks! But she didn’t leave it at that – she explained why, how she uses it, for what purpose. What she was saying was: whatever capability we develop, we need to think how it can be used to help us deal with different types of change. Learning to user twitter has made her more connected in today’s social media world.

From that she talked about the different types of change and capabilities required to deal with it at personal, team and organization level. At each point she asked the audience to discuss and share, but more than that, to talk a bit more abut it.

Naomi demystified Change Management, captured the audience’s attention, got them discussing and sharing with each other  – all this during what we refer to in my world as the “graveyard slot”. If someone can make Change Management sound sexy after lunch, that person is Naomi! At the end someone in the audience asked: what capability would you like to develop. Naomi’s reply: Worldness! To help me live, remain and make the most of the current fast changing world. If this was facebook I’d give a BIG Like!

By now my brain had reached max capacity and I decided to skip the Values Based Leadership session. I heard mixed reviews – maybe I didn’t miss that much.

Time flies, and so does this plane I’m on. It was 3:45 and time for the last session of the day: Transition of Leaders – Applying a Cultural Mind-shift Change, with Neil Morrison, Group HRD and Jo Mallia, L&D Manager, both from Random House.

As you walked into the session there was music playing – yes, cool music playing. There were round tables, where people could see each other. It was inclusive. It made me feel I’d come to see something special!

24hrs later I’m still trying to find words to describe Neil’s and Jo’s session but I remember one participant saying “this had been the best session he had attended all week”, to which the whole group applauded. It was!

The Death of Publishing had given birth to a new mind-set, one which involved bring people together to collaborate rather than remain in their single track ways. Neil made this come alive with an energy I’d never seen from him before. He drew you in, jumped about, used quotes from his colleagues and the many books published by Random House. He had you hooked and then…

…and then over to Jo Mallia, who I’d never met or heard present before. What followed was, to me,  pure and simple passion for L&D!

I’ve never heard anyone speak with so much passion, conviction and belief for what they do (other than me perhaps :). If this was a warm-up gig I can see Jo becoming the next L&D rock star.

She’s involved in understanding the business, getting under its skin, understanding how it works and most importantly of all – keeping the customer, their end user, at the center of it all. She brings people together, gets them talking, collaborating, thinking differently – she unleashes the “pink elephants”, the mavericks. She does more than she should sometimes, but only because she’s passionate, cares, loves her job and no doubt has a great boss 🙂

It was refreshing to see both an HRD & L&D Mgr who shared the same passion, collaborative approach and commitment to a project. It restored faith that there are some truly awesome L&D people out there.  A Big Thanks to both Jo and Neil.

And so 2 days of #CIPDHRD13 came to an end. For all the energy and passion that was shared and experienced, there there are still those in our professional that have the complete oposite effect!

I’d like to thank the CIPD for inviting me to come along, tweet and blog about the 2 days. It was a great opportunity to work and network with many interesting and passionate individuals. Also, thanks to the great “blogging/twitter” team for their company, laughs, debates and shared passions/frustrations over the 2 day event.  Thank you!

As I lay on a sandy beach somewhere in Florida I’ll reflect further on the week’s events, sessions and “blogliday” away. Oh dear…I think I got a bit carried away coming up with my own words – I blame that Google session on day one.

Until then, I leave you with a further selection of posts from some of the team. Happy reading!

From Megan:

Purple bumper boots…

How deep is your love?

From Doug:

Creativity & Learning – the Google Way

Speaker Tips

From Sukh:

Has L&D Stalled?

From Neil:

Mind Fruit

Young, gifted & skint?