Stratgic Choice       HR professionals are widely known for answering “it depends” in response to a question from management regarding a human resources issue.  And often times the response frustrates the manager who expects equivocation.  Is this fair?  Well, it depends (just kidding)!

Scott Schaefer of the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business and co-author of Roadside MBA: Backroad Lessons for Executives, Entrepreneurs, and Small Business Owners says “no.”  Writing for this month’s Harvard Business Review he states the answer to every-business question is “it depends.”  The trick, he says, is knowing what it depends on.

Mr. Schaefer and two colleagues spent the better part of three years travelling the U.S. to discover how small and medium sized businesses succeed.  Their conclusion?  There is no best path to business success.  Time and again they found managers successfully address seemingly similar problems in very different ways.

Experienced HR pros usually run through the same set of questions in resolving the business question before them when it involves adverse or potentially adverse action for people:

1)      What is the business objective?

2)      When does it have to be accomplished?

3)      Why is this important?

4)      Are there relevant policies, practices, culture and/or law governing the matter?

5)      If there is no latitude to “What” is there to “How”?

6)      What is the right thing to do under the circumstances?

Solutions that work just dandy for one business may utterly fail at another.  Trade-offs acceptable for one workforce may be totally unacceptable for another.  This is one of the reasons I have never been a fan of laborious benchmarking projects as most all fail to grasp why something works due to their focus on results and supporting activities.  Bottom line:  If it works for you, do it.