John_Boudreau.pinkCan you really have a plan if you can’t predict the future?

That is one of the central questions John Boudreau asks in his comprehensive research on talent and human resource management.

“The standard approach to human resource planning was to connect it to strategy – that’s a good thing,” said Boudreau in a Harvard Business Review interview. “But very often it involved finding out what the strategists are doing, and then fitting the workforce to it. So in a way, predicting the future, and then adapting the workforce and the human resource practices to create a workforce ready for that future.”

“Increasingly, what we saw was, companies would say ‘Our predictions went out the window. Everything changed and we had to do something different.’”

Companies began to realize that you can’t really have a set people strategy that can last 15 to 20 years – so how can you set a strategy in a changing, uncertain environment?

Businesses have been using the term, “a VUCA environment” – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – for some time now to describe some of the elements that make the future difficult to predict. There is going to be a certain level of inability to predict, and in different organizations that has led to a number of different approaches to planning and strategizing, said Boudreau.

“In the world of software, for example, you see a real evolution toward something that says, ‘let’s put imperfect thing out there, admit that they’re imperfect, let people use them, and be very, very good at revising them as we learn,’ rather than ‘let’s figure out what the right solution is, let’s take months or years to create it, and then let’s release it into the world in a fully finished form.’”

Leaders of organizations and specifically HR leaders are beginning the embrace some of the emerging ways of planning in an uncertain world.


Changing workforce, changing rules

People who are not employed by the organization they work for will soon accomplish an estimated 40 people of the work; yet virtually all present laws, organizational systems and human resource processes are designed around managing full-time employees. Future leaders will focus on how to get the work done rather than how to manage staff. Learn how to successfully navigate and lead the world beyond ‘employment.’

With the concept of adapting strategy to a VUCA environment in mind, Boudreau has developed a keynote presentation entitled, “Lead the Work: Organizing New Organizational Forms, Intermediaries & Alternate Work.” He will present February 1 at HRPA’s Annual Conference and Trade Show.

Boudreau, who is a professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business
and Center for Effective Organizations, is recognized worldwide for breakthrough research on the bridge between superior human capital, talent and sustainable competitive advantage. He consults and conducts executive development with companies worldwide that seek to maximize their employees’ effectiveness by discovering the specific strategic bottom-line impact of superior people and human capital strategies.

His February 1 conference keynote will offer insights into alternative work arrangements, including alliances, talent-trading, tours of duty and freelancers, along with more familiar options, such as outsourcing, temporary employment and contractors. It will also discuss how to help leaders make better decisions about work and talent in this shifting work environment.

Attend John Boudreau’s keynote address at HRPA’s Annual Conference and Trade Show, February 1 at 8:15 AM.

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