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HR Transformation: Building Human Resources From the Outside In

(August 11, 2010)
HR Transformation: Building Human Resources From the Outside In
Authors: Dave Ulrich, Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, Mark Nyman
Named as BusinessWeek's #1 Management Educator, expert Dave Ulrich and his team of authors bring human resources a whole new way of thinking and practicing—moving the focus from internal issues to actively helping to set business strategies. Businesses of the future need "all hands on deck" when implementing new ways to stimulate grown and cost efficiency, and this includes human resources.

In HR Transformation, the team presents a four-phase model of transformation that shows you step-by-step how to make meaningful progress in contributing to the performance of your company by redesigning HR to work as a strategic partnership.

Slew of thoughtful reviews at And below a detailed review of the book.
Everything begins (and often ends) with HR - Review
by Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)

I have read and reviewed all of the other books that Dave Ulrich has authored or co-authored and consider this one to be his most informative and most valuable thus far. Written in collaboration with Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mark Nyman, Ulrich and his RBL associates offer what they characterize as "a handbook for HR transformation" in which they synthesize and summarize everything they have learned about it.

Specifically, what a transformation is and what it requires; what it isn't; what works, what doesn't, and why; how to plan it; how to mobilize the resources needed (especially people); how to launch it; how to measure progress throughout the transformation initiatives; and how to apply the lessons learned to sustain a constant refinement of what HR is and does to increase its impact and value.

Here is a brief excerpt from the Introduction: "Simply stated, we propose that the biggest challenge for HR professionals today is to help their respective organizations succeed." Obviously, to accomplish this worthy objective, the authors correctly assert that there are certain factors that must be present.
    Here are three:
    1. It is imperative that the HR professionals themselves recognize the authenticity of this challenge and not only accept but embrace it as a unique opportunity for their own development but also for what the transformation will enable their organization to accomplish.

    2. It is even more important that senior managers recognize the need for the transformation and commit to its completion whatever resources that may require. They must also be patient. Change initiatives worthy of the name are messy, complicated, unpredictable, and sometimes stalled temporarily. The change agents need and deserve senior management's full support.

    3. There must be a game plan for the transformation process and I think the one that the authors provide in this book is eminently worthy of careful consideration because it is cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective. What I like about it is that it combines some of the best features of Six Sigma and Lean methodologies without limiting the options of those who select it. In fact, the authors provide invaluable advice with regard to how to modify the four-phase model to ensure that it fully accommodates the needs, interest, and objectives of the given organization.

Readers will especially appreciate the authors' skillful use of various reader-friendly devices that include "Tools," "Tables," "Figures," and dozens of checklists that facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points. In the Appendix (all by itself worth far more than the cost of the book), the authors provide (Pages 217-222) an inventory of all the tools that have been inserted throughout their narrative.

After they carefully identify all of the components of HR transformation, credit Ulrich and his collaborators with focusing almost entirely on how to complete one successful. They are clearly diehard, world-class pragmatists. For example, they explain
    1. Why to initiate an HR transformation
    2. What its probable outcomes will be if successfully completed
    3. How to redesign the HR department
    4. How to upgrade HR professionals
    5. How to share accountability for the transformation
    6. How to make it happen
In Part II, "Tales from the Trenches: Transformation Case Studies," they provide case study overviews of four companies (Flextronics, Pfizer, Intel, and Takeda) and suggest what lessons can be learned from each company's HR transformation initiatives. Presumably the authors agree with me that it would be a fool's errand to attempt to adopt all of the material in their book. It remains for each reader to determine (preferably in consultation with associates) which strategies and tactics as well as which people, timetable, and metrics would be most appropriate to their organization's needs, interests, objectives and resources.

In an uncommonly informative Introduction, the authors assert, "Our point is that HR professionals often focus entirely in the function of HR rather than externally on what customers and investors need HR to deliver. If HR professionals are to truly serve as business partners, then their goals must be the goals of the business. Transforming HR professionals into business partners isn't an end in and of itself; it's the means to a strategic, business-oriented end." Those decision-makers who have that specific objective would be well-advised to absorb and digest the material in this book. I commend Dave Ulrich, Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mark Nyman on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

by Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
HR Transformation: Building Human Resources From the Outside In

Colleen Gildea

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