Top Influencers v1.27 Brian (Skip) Schipper
Brian Schipper is the CHRO at Cisco. If the problem simply involved competent administration for 65,000 employees, it would be an enormous challenge. At large enterprise scale, HR simply operates differently.
But this is Cisco.
Under the guiding hand of visionary CEO John Chambers, the company is out to revolutionize work and the way that companies organize to do it. They try hard to be a demonstration of the possibilities of the technology they develop and market. Running an enterprise scale HR organization in this sort of an environment is a real puzzle. Schipper pursues the task with grace and aplomb.
Conventional organizational design focuses on concepts like Span of control, Delegation, Chain of command and Line vs Staff Authority. Even in the most sophisticated matrix organizations, top down authority always overrides influence and autonomy. Cisco seems to be charting an alternative course in which mission, collaboration, desired end state, consensus and cross-functional integration are preferred to the more typical lines of authority.
Things are really different at Cisco. Schipper sits on five corporate governance entities. He is involved in them because the teams think he will contribute to the bottom line in important ways. None of them are directly tied to HR. These are not lofty “board” operations. They are intimately tied to the workings of Cisco’s operating teams.
Five is the house limit (it pushes responsibility and accountability ever further into the organization). They’re not experimenting with collaboration for the hell of it. Cisco wants to retain its agility in spite of its size. Collaboration and rich communications are how you keep the organization flat and responsive.
The traditional definition of HR stops at the edges of the organization. While there are some interesting experiments in the creation of communities of developers, only a few companies really manage their supply chain as a complete entity. This ‘ecosystem” is particularly important to Cisco. With sales that come through channel partners and /component/option,com_registration/task,lostPassword/”>cialis 20 mg cost finished goods that come from outsourced factories, the company makes its living managing the constellation of concerns that surround the core company.
Part of Schipper’s team is devoted to the management of ecosystem HR. The HR department plays roles that range from prototyping to mentoring with companies in the Cisco orbit. In his view, the intellectually curious are the ones who survive and prosper at Cisco.
Schipper, himself, is exciting and engaging. Another graduate of the Pepsi HR ‘academy’, he seems to thrive on the rapidly changing environment. (The collaborative structure is only a few years old.)
He’s influential because he’s rewriting the basic rules of HR. Few companies are changing the way that management works with the depth and consistency of Cisco. Figuring out how to take industrial era systems like compensation and performance management and make them operate in 21st century environments is the daily /component/option,com_registration/task,lostPassword/”>cialis 20 mg cost chore.
Brian does the predictable things you’d expect from a CHRO in the Fortune 100…. Extensive mentoring, networking in the refined Fortune 100 HR environs, involvement with educational institutions. Even making certain that the company appears on best employer lists around the world is almost expected in a job of this caliber.
A look at his resume will give you an idea of the power of his approach. Harris, Compaq, Pepsi, DoubleClick, a hedge fund, Microsft and Cisco. Ever larger and ever more complex, his assignments depend on adaptive learning and the ability to incorporate a new culture.
What really makes him important to watch is the way he is disrupting some of the basic notions of HR. He understands that the natural limit of any network is in the 150 to 300 range. That drives the limits of growth in understanding and resource deployment. He’s busy figuring out how to break the barrier. He’s helping design HR systems, approaches and techniques that reward the solving of business problems and disincent the use and consolidation of personal power.
This is one of the paths to the future of HR.
John Sumser is the founder and CEO of TwoColorHat, a company specializing in market strategy for HR – Recruiting Vendors. You can keep up with his other stuff at johnsumser.com. Follow the rest of the Top 100 Influencers project.