If we look back in time, we find that whether you call it HR or personnel it has always it seems been our job to put out fires. It has always been our job to be the go to person when a problem needs to be resolved. That means that we respond to a given issue, at a given time, in a given space. This means that we are transactional in nature. Dictionary.com defines transactional as the process of carrying on or conducting (business, negotiations, activities etc.) to a conclusion or settlement. It means that when you act as a transaction agent you are in essence serving only an administrative function within the organization. You are not bringing about innovation. You are not bringing about engagement of customers or human capital assets to a higher level.
The global business environment has changed. You are now demanding a better seat at the table. You are now demanding to become an integral part of management. You want to be engaged as a valuable part of the organization but the rest of the organization is talking about how much they could get done if HR disappeared. If you want to dispel that attitude or frame of mind you need to shift your perspective from being the transactional agent to the transformational agent. You need to become involve in the ever-present change atmosphere not from the sidelines but in the thick of things. Again as Dictionary.com tells us you have to assist in changing the form, appearance, nature, or character of your organization.
I was driving down the road the other day and in front of me was a truck for a local aluminum company and across the back of the truck was their slogan “enduring quality with innovative excellence.” The road to becoming a change agent requires a shift from transactional. It requires you to be an active agent for a change in corporate culture centered on the needs of both the internal and external customer. Your organization is seeking to stay one step ahead of the rest of your industry sector by being innovative in your product or service delivery. You are seeking to be the best in class for your product or service. There is absolutely no problem with striving for that with one exception. If we innovate with out ensuring that the effort behind the innovation is not free from defects we have left out one part of the equation.
Being a change agent means that you are pushing to make the mantra of quality something that is ingrained in your corporate DNA. You are pushing to make sure each and every individual within your organization understands that if we relax our vigilance, so that mistaken short cuts are taken, if affects both the customer and the organization. As the aluminum company states we need innovative excellence but we also need a sense of enduring quality at the same time.
So what do we mean by enduring quality? Enduring quality means that when the customer calls they do not have to be transferred to three different people because the earlier two don’t know the answer to the question because it is not their job. Enduring quality means that the organizational human capital assets have the ability and the authority to resolve an issue on the spot without prior approval from upper management. Enduring quality means that everyone understands the impact on the organization if we do not meet the stakeholder’s needs better, faster and cheaper. Enduring quality means that managers coach their team embers on how to better perform the responsibilities they have to deliver the product or service to the end user. Enduring quality means that management instills through the organization the feeling that this push for quality is not some fad but is an integral part of the corporate culture.
You need to be innovative by being agile to the demands of the market. The faster you deliver the better for your organization. But you can’t be so agile that you forget the need to do it right the first time. You need to be able to see the need, feel the need and push to raise the quality bar because that is the key to being agile and innovative.