TLS Continuum Part 2: Creating a Center of Excellence

This second installment in this series is considering two issues. The first is where are we as HR professionals? The second looks at what we consider the definition of HR excellence, which will lead us to the roadmap for creating that HR Center of Excellence.

In Achieving HR Excellence through Six Sigma, the concept is presented that HR is at a crossroads, the outcome of which will decide the future of the profession. This crossroads is the way HR functions within your organization. In our presentations we present a slide in the slide deck, which includes a mountain road with an island in the middle.

The suggestion we make is that if you take the left hand fork you as an HR professional are complacent with being marginalized and treated as a commodity. You are content that many managers present the argument that you can easily be replaced.

The other fork means you take every effort to be a vital part of the total organization. This can only be achieved when you learn to be able to converse with the rest of the organization in their language. This can only be achieved when you can look at problems within the organization with a critical eye at the causality of the issues you are confronted with.

Many of my peers in the HR field belief that HR has already made that decision, and that is to take the left fork and have fallen off the proverbial cliff and that HR as we know it is destined to disappear. Ram Charan, in the July issue of Harvard Business Review suggested that it was time to split HR in two. Charan suggested we create two strands one devoted to the administrative side of the profession and the other dealing leadership and organization.

Why include this in a blog post regarding creating HR excellence? It is unreasonable to expect that you can create this HR center of excellence without changing the focus of the HR function. You cannot create the HR center of excellence until you as HR professionals can talk and understand the language of the business strategies and initiatives. I do not mean give them lip service; I mean get totally ingrained in these efforts.

The six sigma problem solving methodology states that we must begin by defining the problem. For us the first step begins with defining the term Center of Excellence. Part of the difficulty here is that there is apparently no general consensus as to what the term means. There is  however some agreement that Centers of Excellence involve four traits. 

The Center improves its own expertise

 The intended output is for the HR department to be recognized as the primary source of information on a wide range of human capital management issues. We achieve this by demonstrating to the various parts of the organization that we understand the organizational alignment and the strategic direction.

The Center of Excellence provides the development of the resources

The Center of Excellence provides the development of the resources necessary for HR and others to reach that expertise level. These resources may include data, information, training and other vehicles to lay the groundwork necessary to assist the organizational assets to learn what they must to reach the levels they are seeking.
Third, the Center of Excellence effort requires a change in the corporate culture. The move to a Center of Excellence is not a fad thing. The move is not a here is the moment thing where we do it now but give us a week and we will have gone on to something different. It is a permanent fixture within your organization. It is an aspect of the community we call a corporation that is ever present in how we operate.

The Centers of Excellence will share their newfound expertise

Fourth and finally, the expectation is that the Centers of Excellence will share their newfound expertise throughout the organization. As you obtain the status of experts it becomes your responsibility to spread the message to the other functions who have not found the way as yet. As we achieve new milestones in our improvement effort we have a duty to shoe others how they can achieve the same or better results.

Beyond the discussion of the components above there is no definitive definition for a Center of Excellence. In Chapter 1 of Achieving HR Excellence through Six Sigma, I discussed several definitions of what we mean by the term HR excellence. We began with a look at the Anonymous quote reportedly on the wall at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Further I introduced the views of Kevin Duggan and his definition of operational excellence. Based on these two definitions I proposed the ultimate definition of HR Excellence. That definition can be found by looking at the quotation at the beginning of this chapter. To help us with the creation process I want to take some time and further explore this definition. That path is shown below:

CARING more about your organization than others think wise

How many times in your organization, have you asked someone for assistance and received the answer that is not my job. In our efforts to create the Center of Excellence, it has to become your job. It has to become everyone’s job. As valuable parts of the organization we need to understand that the empowerment of our organizational change is based in the involvement of every aspect of that organization in the change process. When we bring about these culture changes we are not just affecting finance, human resources or sales. We are affecting the total organization and how our customers see us.

RISKING more than others think safe to change the corporate culture

For generations our organizations have brought up our human capital assets with the premise that to rock the boat was the wrong attitude. That our organizations succeeded by following this set in stone rules of behavior and doing business. Now we understand that in order to reach this center of excellence we have to see the problem, feel the problem and create the new normal. We do not accomplish that by doing what we always have done. We have to stop being afraid of experimenting with our processes to make the organization better. Our managers have to come to grips with the idea that it is not wrong to fail and we won’t fail unless we take risks that some in the organization think are unwise.

DREAMING more than others think practical about the potential your organization

In line with taking risks is the realization that when we take a look at the organizational potential and respond with the statement “ that is all there is” we are hurting not only the organization but also the human capital assets within that organization. Napoleon Hill told us that whatever the mind can conceive and believe it will achieve. We need to conceive and believe that there is no limit to what the organization can do and go. We just have to believe in the fact that we can get there.

EXPECTING more than others find possible from your human capital assets

Stop for a moment and consider those who work around you in your workplace. Have you ever had a project due and left someone out because you felt that they could not do the job? Have you ever considered an employee and felt that this was a vital project and they were not up to the responsibilities? Was your feeling based in fact or based in how you perceive that person? If you want to achieve this center of excellence status you must forget the stereotypes. There are hundreds of examples of individuals from Thomas Edison to Einstein that were suffering from disabilities and still went on to change the world in which we live. We need to open our perspective to see what could be rather than what it is.


The choice of creating the Center of Excellence is your choice. You are the ones who can empower change in your organization. To do so we need to create a new normal culture, one that understands that the old ways are not going to work in today’s global workplace.

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