Force = Mass x Acceleration (+HR)

“F = M x A (+HR)” is the fourth in a 10-part series outlining the concepts included in “The Physics of HR; Mastering the Laws of Motion,” the Whitaker joint set to publish in mid-2016.

“My job is to make people move.” That’s been the overall theme to this discussion to date, in case I haven’t bludgeoned you to death with imagery already. That’s my job as an HR professional and as a leader of people, as it is for all of you. But the really good ones have also mastered the next part of the equation; “how?”

Newton’s Second Law of Motion sounds more complicated than it is, but can be summarized into a fairly simple explanation; “if you exert the same force on two objects of different mass, you will get different accelerations.

Pretty simple, right? Except the fact that our “objects” are people; that requires that we flip our thinking on this particular law to allow for reverse engineering. Meaning that before any “force” is exerted, we need to determine the desired outcome.

not to be confused with FLMA

not to be confused with FMLA

We see this happen quite a bit in Merger Integration – established deadlines and expected outcomes drive the method of combining two (or more) separate entities. Communicating a 90-day window to realize $2M in efficiencies will effectively drive the forcefulness of the process and will also help target the appropriate “objects.”

Where this process gets muddier is when we don’t have the same structure surrounding a situation. Employee Relations issues are a great example; a situation occurs that requires our immediate intervention, so we will (in most cases) revert to an established protocol we have used in the past. In other words, we’re using the “same force on objects of different mass” but we’re expecting the same acceleration to a desired result.

This is a common trap for Human Resources. We are prone to following a set protocol without necessarily applying the right Science. Sometimes we don’t feel empowered to change the methodology, sometimes we feel hemmed in by the all-encompassing fear of “legal” ramifications, and sometimes we just don’t know any other way.

By modifying the equation, we can start looking at the desired result, then factor in the “mass” of the object (no fat jokes here, please), before determining the amount of force needed to get there. As #WorkplaceScientists we can still experiment without blowing up the lab, but experiment we must!

Next up: Newton’s Third Law of Motion, where the fun really starts…


Talent Acquisition Executive, team-builder, and full-time dreamweaver. Creative Director, Content Designer, Writer, Speaker, Entrepreneur, terrible golfer, lover of The Art of War & Texas Hold 'Em.

View all contributions by

Leave a Comment

{ 0 comments… add one }