Inattentional Bias and Environment Scanning

Even highly skilled and intelligent leaders aren’t good at detecting changes in their environment that might affect strategy. When you are focusing on all of the moving parts of your business, you can be blinded to these important changes.  In psychology, this is known as inattentional bias, which typically happens because we are all overloaded with stimuli, and it is impossible to pay attention to everything in one’s environment.

To be adaptive to change, you need to be attuned to these signals.  Not only that, you need to be able to determine which of those are transient and which are permanent; which of them are opportunities and which of them are threats. Continue reading


People aren’t Paperclips (but you already knew that)

clippy by scampy

Over on Ragan’s HR Communication today is an article entitled 12 most dehumanizing buzzwords to ditch.  The first two? “Resource” and “Human Capital”.

Resource: …If the resource you’re referring to breathes air, talks and has a name, it is best not to use the word “resource.”

Really?  Organisations are not under the impression that their employees don’t have lives outside of work, or that they are any way less than “human”.  But let’s not kid ourselves – employees are resources for the organisations they work for.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be employed (or at least, not for long).  It’s not dehumanizing to state the obvious. Continue reading

Principles, Laws, and Effects at Work



In an earlier post, I wrote about The Peter Principle – the concept that individuals are promoted to their own level of incompetence in an organisation.

Here are some of my other favourite principles, laws, and effects:

Parkinsons Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (tweet this)

Hofstadter’s Law – “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”. (tweet this)

The Dunning–Kruger effect is the concept that if you’re not very good at something, you’re also not very good at recognising that.  It explains why people who are unskilled in a particular area sometimes rate their own ability higher than more competent people.  (over-confident and under-competent)

Putt’s Law – “Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand”.

The Dilbert Principle (from Dilbert creator Scott Adams) is an adaptation of the Peter Principle – paraphrased, it states that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.

Goodhart’s Law – “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.  (tweet thisThis is something of particular relevance to Workforce Analytics, and something which I spoke about in The False Proxy Trap.

Most people know Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, but may not know there’s a related law,  Muphry’s Law – “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written” (tweet this)

The Pareto Principle is another well-known one, usually referred to at the 80/20 rule – for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes (80% of the revenue from 20% of the clients; 80% of the problems from 20% of the clients – not necessarily the same ones).

Are there any other principles, laws, and effects that should be added to the list?

A seat at the (kids’) table

HR, The seat at the table won’t be yours for long

if you can’t hold a conversation once you get there

Image Source –

Just the other day, I was having a conversation with a senior HR leader who had been demoted from the elusive “Seat at the Table” after pushing – hard – for it 18 months earlier.  She believed that once she was in the “inner circle”, she would be free to move HR up the curve from tactical to strategic.  But she was unprepared, and soon on the outer.  There was no formal demotion, just a change where she was now only invited to select conversations at the executive level.  As she put it, she was now “sitting at the kids’ table”.  Getting a seat at the table is one thing.  Getting to sit there permanently is another. 

Getting “a seat at the table” is one of the topics that comes up again and again in conferences, white papers, and blog posts targeted to HR Professionals (and IT and Sales professionals).  It struck me today that although this blog is now in its’ seventh year, there isn’t a single post referencing the question directly, yet Strategic Workforce Planning is in many ways the answer.  

HR is intricately involved in the execution of strategy, and in an increasing number of organisations, in its’ formulation.  After all, it’s the executive that sets the strategy, but the entire workforce that executes it.  HR, therefore, is in a unique position to provide valuable input into the formulation – so long as they can speak the language of business.  

Have you ever been to a dinner party where one person just can’t hold a conversation with anyone else?  That’s an unprepared HR person who’s just been granted a “seat at the table”.  Chances are, they won’t get invited to the next party.  And you don’t get an invite to a dinner party in the first place if you haven’t first engaged with the host on some level.

Instead of focusing on how to get an invite, how about we focus on how to add value, to provide insights, to bring a different perspective?  Do that, make a meaningful input to conversations with the business, and the invitation to the party will follow.  For HR wanting to get invited to the executive table, that means understanding the business strategy, what it’s going to take to formulate and execute it, and how you can help.  It means an eye on the future, not looking exclusively at the past, or the present.  It’s not about “best practice” or “how company X does it”, and it’s certainly not complaining about what you wish was different.  It’s about ROI, results, improvement, and insight.

“How do I get a seat at the table?” is the wrong question to ask.  You don’t get an invitation to the party by wishing you had one.  You either engage at a meaningful level with the host, or you crash the party and make such an impression that nobody can imagine having another one without you.

And here’s an exercise – 

1) If you could invite 5 people to a dinner party from any period in time, be they alive or dead, real or fictional – who would they be?
2) Now list the reasons why you would invite those 5 people.
3) Now ask yourself – honestly – can you provide those things in an executive-level conversation?
4) If so, DO IT!  If not, work on it, then… DO IT!