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Making the Leap From Capability to Faith – Organisation Development

It’s all too easy to talk about the need to increase people capability in order to achieve .  Read any company memoranda or share holder report and it will contain within it some reference to the human capital in the business whether in leadership or the wider employee population.  The message that organisations convey is that people matter.

But look beyond the hyperbole and delve into the practices of the same organisation and it soon becomes apparent that there is a difference between words, actions and beliefs.  A will focus on systems and processes, but the investment in people is mere percentage points versus the investment in the business process engineering; the amount invested in developing people is far exceeded by the amount invested in capital projects and along with marketing budgets for are dispensable when costs have be cut.

People Matter, is not just about the words we use, the message we sell or employee engagement.  People Matter is a choice that leaders, managers and employees make every day.  Do they choose to put people first, or do they choose to do what is best for themselves or for their balance sheet.

A few years ago I heard a story about a senior leadership team that had spent the morning during a development course espousing how important people were to their business.  But when challenged by the facilitator if the ‘really’ were a people first organisation the leadership team confessed that no, what was more important was the numbers.  It sounds shocking, and when I was told the story, the person telling me was incredulous that this belief existed in the organisation.  Actually we don’t care about people we only care about the numbers.  If only all organisations were as honest.

The issue is that all the evidence and research shows that successful organisations are successful because they believe, and more importantly act in a manner, that says People Matter.  Many intellectually have grasped the fact that People Matter, but not many truly believe it.  They have not taken People Matter to heart and do not consider how the choices they make reflect that belief.

The result is a disconnect between what is said and what is practiced, people capability is unable to be released and organisation effectiveness is something that remains out of reach.  But for many Leaders, changing from building capability (how much are we going to spend training people) to belief (people matter) takes a leap of faith.

A leap that requires a leader to understand that in adopting choices that put people first will go against traditional organisational thinking, it may even cost more money in the short term and it requires a different way of leading.  It requires that the organisation puts people at the heart of what they do and that they concentrate on releasing the potential of the people who work in and with the organisation.  Systems and processes might need to change to accomodate the needs of People, and the investment is turned on its head to concentrate building people first, systems and processes second.

The truth is that faith in People is different to faith in capability.  It is easy to place financial values on the return an organisation will get from having a skill set or knowledge base in their business; its much harder to place a financial value on Liz from accounts or Mary from Sales .  Extrapolate that over a population of thousands of employees and it takes faith to believe that people can make the difference between okay performance and sustainable organisation effectiveness.

There is plenty of research which supports the claims that people make the difference.  Leadership parrot the ‘‘ because they have seen the evidence.  But belief and making choices that reflect the belief that People Matter requires a leap of faith.