The Fast HRM Movement: It’s All About Energy, Performance, Success

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By Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD

Fast HRM is critical to any organization’s success. The work on Fast HRM is derived from an established field of practice in extreme and agile programming and over 20 years of research on what predicts long-term firm performance (to learn more, go here and look for the Fast HRM tabs).

What makes the agile and extreme programming work interesting is that it is a high-energy, high-performance movement – not just another fad. Fast HRM also is a requirement for any firm that has to speed up because the only way to do this successfully is through employees.

Today I will introduce you to 12 principles of Fast HRM. Fast HRM is a movement; it needs energy, excitement, and people who will join the movement and move it forward.

If Fast HRM is a successful movement, we will all be having a lot more fun at work. We will be more successful, our firms will be performing better, and perhaps we will be celebrating just like the dancing guy in this video clip (learn about a movement – take a moment to review):

From Extreme Programming to Fast HRM Principles

Agile programming has the agile manifesto. Extreme programming got started by rallying around new values. Fast HRM has its principles, and we need to create energy around them. We who advocate Fast HRM need your help.

  • Step #1: In this article, the 12 Fast HRM principles will be introduced.
  • Step #2: Principle #1 will be explained in more detail in this article.
  • Step #3: We need your help; we are asking for your Fast HRM stories.
  • Step #4: We will follow up with a short series on the other principles.
  • Step #5: Keep sharing your stories and keep learning so we can all go fast faster.

The 12 Fast HRM principles, briefly

  1. Fast HRM requires innovation; the mandate is to not just speed up HRM process or tools. Through innovation, firms using Fast HRM learn to do HRM differently. They question the status quo and create new processes and tools that meet the needs of today’s managers, leaders, boards, customers, and other stakeholders. Fast HRM goes beyond just speeding up what we have been doing in the past.
  2. Fast HRM fosters trust; this is because you have to hand off process to others. Going fast requires many links in a chain; it’s like running a relay race. You have to hand off your work to someone else. You need to be able to pick up the phone and trust that the person on the other end will meet his/her commitments.
  3. Fast HRM is built upon and builds strong relational capital, involving all relevant stakeholders. Fast HRM requires ongoing, frequent collaboration with stakeholders. This type of communication builds strong relational capital. People within the firm have higher quality and stronger relationships with each other, and the same type of relational capital building is done with external stakeholders, such as vendors, partners, customers, board members, retirees, and members of the community.
  4. Fast HRM requires business acumen and builds business knowledge and expertise. Strong relationships are directed at common goals, such as building the business. As knowledge is shared, and relationships are built, employees and other stakeholders learn more about the business. Fast HRM moves data about the business around the organization quickly. As new knowledge is acquired, it is shared. Everyone continues to learn together.
  5. Fast HRM demands focused HRM. We do not sacrifice quality or accuracy for speed, and we don’t try to do it all. We focus on what’s needed to succeed and to win; we take calculated risks. You can’t be everything to everybody; thus, choices have to be made. The winning NASCAR drivers go fast with excellent teams, high quality, and superior teamwork. However, the pit crew does not work on everything during the race. If they focused on getting it “all right,” the driver would never leave the pit. Fast HRM is all about speeding up to do the right work to support your team and firm. Fast HRM makes sure the company has a chance to win; it’s in the race.
  6. Fast HRM is a continuous improvement process. Fast HRM is an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement. It keeps the organization at the cutting edge of their field, keeping pace with the ever-changing global market firms in which they are working. Fast HRM helps managers meet their needs.
  7. Fast HRM is not about more technology; although used, more alone is not better. Fast HRM is not about putting what we do today on the Internet and using computers instead of paper. If you only move what you are doing today to the Web, you change and often complicate processes. We don’t want MORE HRM; we are working toward fast, agile, light, focused and new HRM to help meet today’s business needs be fast, agile, and successful.
  8. Fast HRM does not require reductions in staff; it is not about cutting people and becoming lean. Fast HRM is not a call for less people. In fact, as you build relational capital and you involve more individuals, you may build staff. The staff may not be in the HRM department, or it may be. The key to success is involving the right people in HRM work activity so that the work is done faster and better. Fast HRM uses the right people for the right job, and it is not a call to cost cutting and/or reduction in staff.
  9. Fast HRM uses data-driven story telling. To do Fast HRM you need data, but not data for the sake of data alone. Data are used for dialogue and to influence actions that drive results. Fast HRM uses data to pull out key stories that are then shared within the organization. These data-driven stories are used to build skill. Fast HRM teaches “power storytelling,” which is telling stories to drive action and results.
  10. Fast HRM breaks barriers and eliminates silos. Because you are running a relay with Fast HRM, and because trust and relational capital are built, walls come down. Silos are eliminated because work is flowing between what were old barriers.
  11. Fast HRM builds a positive sense of urgency. As trust and relational capital build, as knowledge is passed on to others, and as interactions grow, individuals will increase their sense of urgency to win.
  12. Fast HRM starts with an energized project team. Fast HRM then moves to energize all employees, and as Fast HRM is implemented, the results continue to energize. Ongoing optimal energy is needed to go fast. Fast HRM does not burn out employees.

Principle #1: Fast HRM requires innovation

Innovation happens in lots of areas of HRM; however, we often don’t hear about it. Below are a few examples:

  • An automobile company needs to educate the company about its vast number of affinity groups and the good work they are doing. Rather than traditional presentations that take way too much time for anyone to attend, the innovative diversity officer uses speed dating as a model. She sets up a fast approach to learning that not only shares information quickly but that creates the kind of “buzz” you’d never get in a traditional model.
  • A training director in a fast-growth company abandons the long, needs analysis process in favor of working quickly with the sales team to focus training on what they need today. By delivering something fast, rather than waiting for the process to be perfect, the company improves sales dramatically in a short period of time.
  • A president of a division of a large manufacturing plant needs to quickly improve safety, quality and profitability. Using a fast employee feedback process, she gets data on what’s working and what’s not and quickly rallies employees to drive change. She also uses the process to provide quick messages that reinforce key strategic initiatives.

Challenges for innovation in driving Fast HRM

In a lot of organizations, HR innovation is not part of the fabric of the firm. This means being innovative may put the innovator out on a limb, and taking risks when the economy is not strong tends to be a behavior many individuals find not practical.

Perhaps it’s time to legitimize innovative HR. Do we need research and development (R&D) HR departments? Should organization design efforts for HR include formal innovation centers and departments, or should professional associations start creating subgroups so innovation in HR is something shared? Or perhaps the Fast HRM movement can become strong enough to enlist the help of innovative HR professionals.

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Your turn

Please share your innovative HR stories. Write in (leave a message below, or send an email) and share what you are doing or what you have seen some other HR team do that you think is innovative.

It can be “baby innovation” or “big innovation.” Both and all examples help share knowledge. Also, share other challenges you see with being innovative. What’s getting in our way as a field?

Next, look for a discussion of Fast HRM principle #2: Fast HRM fosters trust and what gets in the way of building trust in HRM. When finished reviewing the principles of Fast HRM, then we next will move to methods to become fast and case studies of firms moving quickly and helping their organizations become more successful.

Theresa M. Welbourne
Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD, is the FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business and Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is also the founder, President, and CEO of EEPulse Inc., a human capital technology and consulting firm in the energy business -- optimizing and directing human energy for growth and innovation. She also is an adjunct professor with the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. Theresa was awarded the 2012 Academy of Management Distinguished HR Executive Award (for contributions in research, teaching and practice). Contact her at theresa@eepulse.com .