Electric Human Resources – The “I” In Current

As promised in my previous post, here is an example of how the laws of physics explain so much about the HR function.

Electrical circuits have three physical properties that matter – Voltage, Current, and Resistance. Circuits are designed to accomplish work, to convert the flow of electrons into a useful output.

Here’s all you need to know. Voltage is equal to resistance times current. As a formula: V = IxR. This is a law of nature, not a design equation.

Voltage (V) is the power, the force that ‘motivates’ the flow of electrons in a circuit. Current, measured in Amps (I), is the actual flow of electrons. Resistance (R) is exactly what it sounds like, a property that acts in opposition to the flow of electrons.

So what does this have to do with Human Resources professionals, and specifically to change implementation?

Let’s start with resistance. It’s a property, inherent to the circuit. Each component has a certain amount of resistance. Wires used to move electrical energy have low resistance, to assure continuous flow. Wires in your toaster have high resistance, which is good for making toast. Resistance isn’t good or bad, it is a reality. In our world, every employee has variable resistance – it depends on the nature of the change you are bringing into the organization.

Voltage is the raw power you bring to a change. We talk about being led from the top – that’s high voltage. To the degree we envision a change having high resistance, the more high-level support we seek to endorse, sponsor, or lead the change.

Current is the pace of change, the flow of information and the flow of work toward the goal. With low resistance, the current can move quickly, as it does through simple copper wires. There is not much work to do. Deliver the message, provide the tools required for the change, and close the project. In our projects, current looks like information exchange, focus groups, newsletters, Q&A, SharePoint sites, lots of 1:1 contact, and user/customer forums.

Resistance, as stated earlier, is neither good nor bad, it just is. But if you don’t understand it, you could substantially under- or over-power your initiatives and waste energy. We usually think that the work is overcoming the resistance, but the work is matching the resistance. It’s a big difference. If you overwhelm the resistance, you are wasting energy in the name of doing the work. Being effective is bringing the right voltage to the resistance, so sufficient current can flow.

There’s a reason that current is labeled as “I”. Because you are responsible. The flow of a project that you lead is your accountability. You have to understand the resistance to determine the necessary voltage to carry out the work through that resistance. The “I” is you. Making it happen. Getting it done. Communicating. Discussing. Making the flow work.

Got it? Next lesson is in Kinetics! Not to be confused with Kinetix. I can’t wait. I’ll be you can’t either.



4 Responses to Electric Human Resources – The “I” In Current

    • Thanks Heather. This line of thinking has helped me several times in organizational problem solving. Accomplishment of work is a physical phenomena, so I end up analyzing it that way.

  1. […] A few posts back I mentioned that sometimes resistance is good, like when it is used in a toaster to turn electricity into heat to make your toast. Most of our uses of electricity are inefficient, resulting in the desired outcome plus heat. Light bulbs give off light and heat. Computers do the work we need them to, and they generate heat. The same is true of our uses of fossil fuel. The stored energy in gasoline is converted to motion in our vehicles, and heat is generated as a by-product. […]

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