People Who Need People

Helping leaders navigate the strategy-execution gap.

Course: Human Resource Executive Program
When: Three times a year; Next: March 14-25, 2005; July 10-22, 2005
Instructors: Wayne Brockbank, Richard Beatty, William Joyce
Class size: 35 to 40
Where: University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
Cost: $17,000
Mission: Make HR a player in organizations, not a dumping ground for resumes and exit interviews.

When companies develop failing strategies, what's to blame: the strategy or the execution? More often than not, it's the latter. "Someone needs to fill that strategy-execution gap," says David Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan and former codirector of the HR-related executive programs. "Why not HR?" Yeah, why not? The University of Michigan's Human Resource Executive Program, an intensive two-week course, is designed to help HR directors and managers get the respect they crave but seldom receive.

The road to respect — and a role in the company that's more than administrative — begins with a series of conversations the course prepares you to have. First, you talk with your business leader about what the goals of the business are and what HR can do to make them happen. "HR should be a strategic provocateur, a devil's advocate, asking, 'Do we know what it is that we really want?' " says Ulrich. Then you talk with your HR team to see if they're prepared to take on this new role. Because most HR people haven't given much thought to issues such as strategy, they may need to learn some new skills. Finally, you have to ask yourself, "Am I up for this?" and determine how you're going to build the credibility of your team so that the rest of the organization embraces a richer HR role. "People go home from the course and sometimes try to do too much," says Ulrich. "They learn they have to start small." But they do have a number of tools, exercises, and templates to do such things as facilitate a change in a company's culture, and make their usual role of recruitment and hiring even more important.

Want to go? http://execed.bus.umich.edu

Can't go? Check out Human Resource Champions, by David Ulrich (Harvard Business School Press, 1997).

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