HR as a wartime consigliere

In the last Blog I wrote about Star Wars – and in my first I wrote about Jaws. The plan is to keep struggling through films (and other things) until I end up scraping the bottom of the media barrel, so feel free to stop reading when I start producing articles with titles like

  • lessons for OD from Kevin Costner’s epic ‘Waterworld’
  • how could Bill and Ted improve their team dynamics?
  • What was Garfield’s learning journey between Garfield 1 and Garfield 2?
  • Alien vs Predator – when is conflict beneficial?
  • Herbie – is it ever right to go bananas? 
Until then I’ll work through some more recognisable territory, so I’m moving on to The Godfather. 
Fascinating factoids
  • The Godfather was written by Mario Puzo, who also wrote the screenplay to Superman – but you wouldn’t know it from the contrasting tone
  • Francis Ford Coppola managed to find parts in the film for his {deep breath} sister, mother, father, two sons and his daughter. The musical play in The Godfather Part II was written by his grandfather
Get on with it…it isn’t a movie blog…

In both the book and the film there is an interesting and key role in the Mafia family – described as consigliori in the book, but as consigliere in the film series. No matter the name, the role is pivotal in the organisation, providing challenge and counsel to the Head of the Family. They are  a trusted advisor who is able to debate decisions and challenge behaviour in a way that isn’t expected in the rest of the organisation. They are closer to the thoughts, plans and motivations of the Head of the Family than anyone else.
You’ll notice on the org chart below that it sits off to the side of the organisation – a direct report  – but operating at a different level to an Underboss (let’s call the ‘underboss’ a ‘Head of Department’). You’ll also notice that, in a business where decisions are genuinely life and death, the org chart doesn’t look that dissimilar to most companies
Hey, look at my Mafia Org Chart!

And that relates to HR how…

There are a couple of interesting things about the role

i) I think it is a role that HR/OD  should be looking to fill. Helping to run the commercial business – whilst providing support,counsel and challenging thinking at the very top. If we aren’t at the top table we are letting it be lonely at the top

ii) I think the requirements for key roles, including that of HR, change depending on the environment

But yesterday you were all about consistency?

In yesterday’s blog I suggested that HR needed to be brave and consistently principled when making and acting on difficult decisions. I genuinely believe that, but the fact is sometimes there is a different skill set required to deliver in difficult times. People have different strengths that suit different environments and challenges. 

In the first film the consiglieri of the Corleone family, their most trusted advisor, Tom Hagen, is demoted temporarily when a war breaks out between New York’s crime families. The reason given is this

“things are going to get rough, and I need a wartime consiglieri.” Michael Corleone

So the key reflections are…

are we consiglieri? Are we running our department – or playing a key role in the running the business? Do we have that level of trust and credibility with the most senior people in the organisation?

are we peacetime or wartime consiglieri? Are we at our best when the chips are down – or when we have time and space to think? Neither is necessarily better, but understanding which one you lean towards can help you do two things: i) reflect on where you need to strengthen your skills  ii) be aware of how much or little help you may be able to offer in different situations

do you notice changing requirements? if the dynamic of your business changes have you stopped and thought whether the team you needed yesterday is still the team you need for today? And tomorrow?

All done?

Well, very quickly,for those of you searching for work/life balance -, the Mafia had a good guiding rule on that too


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