Letter to Ruchika

Thanks so much for your question about what to read. Reading is leading, and I like to think about the intersection of business and HR.

Now that you've given me a challenge I'll be thinking about this some more!


Find all the works of Jac Fitz-Enz, the creator of the Saratoga Report and the founder of the Saratoga Institute. The Institute was the first national group that showed you could measure every aspect of HR, and Jac wrote four or five books about that all of which I keep in my library.

In the US people argued for 30 years or more that you couldn't really “measure” HR – that it was a set of “soft” skills and impossible to quantify the value of. Thankfully we lost that argument and since ~2000 most organizations have been requiring HR to track, report, analyze –and act– on metrics.

I'm happy to say your generation is smarter than mine – you guys are not afraid of data.

Therefore you need to be really skilled in these areas so start by finding everything by Jac. Read it, keep it, lead it.


For organization behavior read all of Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last, et al).

Jim puts in plain English what it takes to make – and keep – an organization different and vital. A clear and understandable writer he points out that there is no secret to organization success, but there is a great deal of continued and constant effort.

A really important notion to Jim – fundamental actually – is that to be great the first thing you do is get the right people on the bus, not set a bold vision. In fact, he argues that vision comes from getting the right people in the first place, not by setting some grand plan. Now, think about how radical that sounds relative to all the HR talk you've heard about investing in everyone, and keeping everyone on board.

Nonsense. Get the right people on the bus.

And get the wrong ones off.

Current Thinking

The monthly I read without fail is the Harvard Business Review, usually cover to cover. Its true years ago when I first started reading it they were a little over impressed with their name and associated pedigree, and lost their way for a while.

But they are back on track now delivering relevant and accessible information monthly about business and behavior which of course is what human resources is: how to attract, align, encourage and enable people in our organizations.

Sometimes HBR's case studies and problems make your head hurt thinking about them: that's good. Problems should be tough lest we forget the challenge and honor we have to serve in leadership.

Another facet of HBR I like is that they know and write about the fact that we are now a global economy – they provide tools for the world we live in, not the world of last year.

So there it is: a good solid starting point for the literature that helps me think about HR and our role in helping drive organization success.

What a great questions Ruchika: I'll consider this further and follow up with other ideas.

Have a wonderful weekend!





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