HRPS People & Strategy Journal


“Society is undergoing enormous structural change and the accelerated rate of technological and social change will overwhelm people leaving them feeling disconnected and suffering shattering stress and disorientation”. This easily could have been written anytime in the past decade but, in fact, this is from Alvin Toffler’s visionary book Future Shock, written in 1970! Overwhelming change has become the new normal which makes the need for adaptability and flexibility paramount for individuals and organizations.

We have reached the point of what Yale Professor Richard Foster calls “accelerated obsolescence” in his prediction that only 25% of the current S&P 500 companies will be there in year 2020 … just seven away! The corporate graveyard is already full of individuals and companies that could not or would not adapt as change demands—sometimes through stubbornness and sometimes through lack of vision or awareness that a change was necessary. This could also become the description for many global HR teams trying to keep pace with the rampant change unless they take a proactive campaign to build their fitness, speed and adaptability.

Clearly, we are all operating in what is now commonly described as a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – as coined a decade ago at the Army War College. Each of those dynamics has profound impact on organizational effectiveness with profound implications for leadership. It is just as clear that these dynamics are having an even more profound, exaggerated impact on the HR function and its leaders especially in large, global firms. Each organization will have its own operating environment with more or less of these VUCA factors – we call it your vucasphere. Those organizations with level 4 or 5 vucaspheres are finding themselves facing extraordinary challenges on the people front. Here is where human resource management must transform into a true human resource leadership (HRL) value proposition to flourish and it should start with the HR organization taking a serious look at themselves and their capacity to be focused, fast and flexible … aka AGILE!

Truly progressive HR senior executives have the opportunity to role model the kind of organizational transformation that is needed by shaping and transforming their own global HR function and its team members into the kind of proactive, customer centric, collaborative, innovative and responsive unit poised to adapt and thrive in the heavy VUCA storms ahead. It is not going to get any slower or less uncertain. The future is filled with more turbulence and continued complexity which will demand organizations and leaders to build dynamic capability to learn, adapt and develop better and faster solutions in real time!

Whew, it will be exhausting unless we create organizations that are fit and ready. The balance of this article will be devoted to laying out a roadmap focusing specifically on the HR function and utilizing THE AGILE MODEL® – a widely recognized best-practice model for organization agility including its five critical drivers and fifteen core processes. Readers will benefit from practical and specific suggestions for how find your agility gaps and build capability to anticipate change, generate confidence, initiate action, liberate thinking and evaluate results. The article will also be laced with real-life commentary from senior HR leaders sharing perspective from companies around the globe.

Authors Tom O’Shea and Kathy Hanna have both been senior HR leaders in global firms along with from more than twenty years of consulting experience with senior leaders developing and sharing insights from a broad array of industries across the globe.

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Tom O'Shea, CMC

Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) - these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive to navigate VUCA and deliver future success.

Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise that is rare and valuable.  With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations.

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