Fundamental Tension: An Inquiry

I am in the midst of inquiry.

Flashback to 1988. Assistant to the S-1, Personnel Officer, for an advanced individual training battalion. Soldier sent home from advanced individual training, didn't meet physical requirements, very upset veteran parent comes to personnel because drill sergeant said it was our decision (read: fault). Guardian.

Flashback to 2001. Manager of an HR department for a small but growing company. HR manager asks for feedback on perception of HR and gets back "no-no girls." Guardian. Same company. Automated annual review process and HR information system implementation, navigated through first downsizing and participated as member of management team in strategic planning. Partner.

Flashback to last week, April 2006. HR Officer reviews all things HR and hears,  "how could you let this happen?" The words weren't there but the message received sure was. Guardian. Developing targeted recruitment plans for hard to fill positions, building collaborative relationship with union. Partner.

April 2007 Harvard Business Review article, "Avoiding Integrity Land Mines," encourages finance, legal and HR to be both partner and guardian and recognizes the "fundamental tension" that exists between these two roles. Well, as one who lives it every day, fundamental tension is not the half of it. 

Fundamental tension between the roles explains some of what I have been feeling recently but there is something more. Could it be that tension not only exists between the roles themselves but also from the perspectives from which it occurs? Is there tension between operating within an organization and operating for the organization? I am not saying this well, yet, but there is something there for me. Maybe it is time to step out a little further on the branch, be more present, to drive the train vs. guide it. Is this the natural progression of things? Am I growing perhaps? I don't know but I do know I have not felt this way before. Is it the need to lead?

Coming from this perspective, the message, "how could you let this happen?" listened to more closely can be an inquiry in and of itself.  It may more completely be, "how can you stop this from occurring in the future . . . .because I know you can." You know what? So do I.

The inquiry continues.