Dealing with shadows in OD LO9780

Brock Vodden (
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 02:23:01 -0400 (EDT)

Re: Keith's response LO9770 to Joe's posting LO9700.

Joe and Keith:

Joe's comments and your response raise some issues that have major
implications for learning organizations. I am referring to Joe's
suggestion that organizations must keep a very tight control on both HR
and IT because they could "imperil the organization's future if they are
given an independent base of power".

Keith characterizes this issue as 'a fundamental schizophrenia regarding
the roles of "line" and "staff" in any organization'.

I have a very different take on the issue, I think, than both of you. The
reason why I am responding is not to convert you to my way of thinking,
but rather to get a more complete understanding of both of your
perceptions of the problem(s) and the kinds of solution you propose and
how you arrived at them. An additional reason for my probing here is that
I have two speaking engagements over the next few months in which I will
be speaking to HR and IT executives, as well as some new consulting
assignments that are closely related to these issues.

First, a brief statement of my view. Since people and information are
recognized as such vital and critical resources in organizations today,
Human Resource Management and Information Management must be treated as
very high level strategic processes. These processes occur throughout the
entire organization and, of course, are not confined to the domain of the
HR or IT departments. IMHO, these processes are handled more effectively
by those organizations that that involve their HR and IT departments as
key elements in the formation of a business strategy and in the process of
managing the business strategically.

Second, I have first hand experience with several organizations that have
adopted a model similar to the one Joe is suggesting (i.e. with very
contained central HR & IT organizations and with dedicated staff
distributed amongst operational units). In all the cases that I have in
mind, the benefit was a reduction of tension that had existed as a result
of the we-they split, but that the HR and IT functions saw no improvement,
and in most cases the services at both the business unit level as well as
at the corporate level became worse. My hunch is that the reason for this
is that the approach greatly increases the fragmentation of key business
processes, which may have been a large factor in the original problem
being addressed. This is not to say that we should accept the status quo.
I am sure that the problems on which Joe bases his conclusion are both
real and serious. But I do believe that the solution lies elswhere.

Third, Keith, I believe you are correct in saying that it is a line/staff
issue, or at least it is perceived that way in many organizations. It has
been my impression that in a learning organization that kind of split and
conflict should be decreased or eliminated. In any case, I feel it is much
more than a line/staff problem we are adressing.

I will leave it at that for a moment since this post is already too long.
More later if it is appropriate.


H. Brock Vodden
Vodden Consulting
"Where People and Systems Meet"

Ontario, Canada



Brock Vodden <>

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