CIPD HRD 2013 – Thoughts & Observations from Day 1

It’s 00:33 and I can’t sleep! My head is buzzing with all sorts of ideas, energy, challenges, contradiction and and a slight dash of disappointment after day 1 of CIPD HRD 2013.

First there was the Google opening session, which I blogged about earlier. There was the  “food thing” which was ok but If I had a Buzzword bingo card, as suggested by @pontecarloblue at a later session, it would have been filled by 9:45am (15 mins after the session started). I left the session feeling flat…I wanted more but I guess Google, just like anyone else is doing the same “L&D things” as me, only called a “cool funky name” – googlelution perhaps? Not to mention all those slides! So un-Google like!

My next session “Waking Up OD – putting relationships at the the heart of our practice”, kind of woke up some participants, but not enough for them to “speak up”. Saying that it was a good session run by @stevexoh & @claresrelume with the added bonus of Fabiola Williams from The Body Shop. They challenged the audience to think about their role as OD Practitioners, how they connect to the profession, the role they play, if they bring themselves (Self as Instrument) and most importantly of all, the spirit of enquiry. It’s not about labelling OD, following a process or asking for leadership buy-in but what you, as a practitioner bring to the table. I particularly liked the way Relume got everyone talking and building relationships (even if in a small scale), but sadly very few participated by feeding back their answers/discussion points…a case of “I’m paying to be here, I want to listen and learn, not contribute!” Sad really given the large number of OD people in the room, and a missed opportunity to hear about their discussions which were quite energetic given the buzz in the room. Imagine the relationships they could have built if only they’d woken up! Can you tell yet I enjoyed this session?

Time for a break, a blog post and a walk around the exhibition- so many people trying to sell you the latest re-incarnation of the last thing. One stand even had a full display of their clients but nothing about themselves or what service they offered. Earlier in the day Doug Shaw had found an empty stand which remained as unpopulated by the time I got around to it at 1:45pm.

The 2 sessions that followed were a mix bag. There was open & genuine dialogue by the speakers, including asking the audience feedback on their work (coaching for team performance session), and high expectations followed by disappointment and contradiction (Resilient Leaders session), not to mention the speaker who over dominated the last session of the day (poor facilitation by the session chair perhaps?)!

Coaching for Team Performance saw the panel talk about what they had done to build a Coaching Culture, the challenges they faced and how they overcame some of them. Good mix of backgrounds and industries yet none of them professed to be experts. They all said this is what we did and how – what do you think? Did we do it right? i.e. they cared enough about it to ask for feedback.
Good discussions about coaching, building a coaching culture, coaching relationships and all the challenges associated. Sue Miller, L&D Manager at Hilton hotels, described how she used other functions with an interest in coaching to help build a coaching culture in the organisation. It’s a business driven agenda rather than an HR/L&OD initiative. Sue also likes the Weegie accent (accent from Glasgow) 🙂

Sunil Jindal of Diageo, in addition to tying his shoe laces in a funky way, talked about coaching as a dialogue/conversation. Even if nothing else happens, it’s ok. Quite right too. You get dialogue going and that in itself is a good start.
What struck me about these guys was the fact they’d tried to get a coaching culture going or start coaching programmes, had succeeded to some extent but were also humble enough to ask the audience and each other for their opinion. Peers asking peers for feedback. Sadly, the audience remained as quiet as I’d grown used to! Once again, good session but little, if any audience input.

Last session of the day, perhaps the most highly anticipated: Developing Resilient Yet Agile Leaders for your Organisation, failed to deliver on many levels. It started well, with good examples and case studies from the panel but after a while descended into the Chelsea Football Club show. Forget RNLI & Thames Valley Police (who got some air time), this was the CFC show. Eventually people started getting up and leaving… Either poor facilitation meets over dominating panelist or it was the last session and everyone wanted to get home.
What had promised to deliver and started well (no PowerPoints involved), descended into a scene of contractions and over dominance. I’m sure the deeply personal story by the Thanes Valley Police speaker around personal resilience was overshadowed by the Chelsea FC Performance Director going on, and on and on..!
Ali Peck of RNLI stared well by saying:”don’t overlook the human aspect during a major change program as people are key to you delivering it”. Only to contradict herself later by saying we need hard data to show and validate there are issues in the workplace/work climate. i.e: people are key to us delivering the vision but let’s wait until a few drop dead, count them, then use it as hard data before the evidence disappears! I thought Ali had just said “don’t overlook the human factor”…and now we need data??? By then I had switched off and more people left, but not before the session got, yet again, highjacked by Mike Forde, Chelsea FC Performance Director. He does have lots of stories and friends….that’s for sure. With all the good stories from the earlier part of the session forgotten, over dominance by one speaker, contradiction by another, lack of process facilitation and end of a long day, I got bored, got up and left!

It’s now very late and my head is already buzzing in anticipation of day 2…bed time! Nite nite!

Food for thought…and collaboration! Googlelicious!

A few years ago, when designing our kitchen, my partner and I wanted to create a space where people came together, not just to eat our delicious food but also to part of the cooking experience. We wanted a space where we could talk, eat, drink, debate and be in each other’s presence.

The designer was finding it hard to translate the vision into reality but after some heated debate and challenge from both parts we got there…

Should organisations create such spaces for their employees to come together? If so, what benefits would they expect to see, other than just “we have the coolest canteen in the world”?

Everyone’s favorite search engine, Google, did just that. We’re all used to seeing and hearing about their cool funky work environment. After all, Culture and Climate are vital to their innovation, as Stephan Thoma, Google’s Director of Learning & Development pointed our this morning during his  CIPD HRD 2013 session on “Nurturing Creativity and Learning in the Workplace”.

Google however, took it one step further. In addition to their cool funky workspace, lots of colour and radical design (an HES Officer’s worst nightmare), they introduced FOOD! Not just food but great tasting, varied, FREE food! “Food is a place to bring people together” said Stephan.

Just like me and my partner, Google wants their “Googlers” – we simply call ours “friends” – to come together in this space over something that is important to them (and us) all – Food.

So, if you’re going to create this space in your organization, find out what brings people together, and what you want to get out of it.  For Google collaboration and team work are critical  and they use this spaced to do exactly that – promote dialogue, discussion, collaboration and learning.

What is important to your organization now and in the future and what spaces are you going to create to encourage and promote that “thing” you want?

I’m not suggesting everyone should follow Google or start offering free food. Do whatever work for your organization.  As Stephan said: “I’m not going to share best practices as it may not work for everyone”

More importantly, are you ready to fight for the space and climate you want, as we did with our designer or just settle for any “ magnolia kitchen/canteen space”?

Of course Stephan didn’t just talk about food – there was also reference to their “non-hierarchical and process free approach”, yet he referred to his boss’s boss and an overcomplicated performance management process.  Contradictory? Food for thought perhaps…

Want to know more about Stephan’s presentation? Have a look at Doug Shaw’s blog post this morning “Creativity and Learning –  the Google Way”  Doug summed it up nicely J

Oh, and there was something else too –  “Learning on the Loo”…yes, at Google there is something called “ Learning on the loo” (some people call it reading the paper). Even there, they “bring people together”.