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Review of Words from the Whys by David Fairhurst

Words from the Whys is by David Fairhurst, the most influential HR practitioner and certainly the most media-savvy, by some distance. So you'd be surprised if he didn't produce something worthwhile, not to say stunning.

Voted by HR magazine as the UK's Most Influential Practitioner in 2008 and 2009, Fairhurst has not produced just any old book but something for the HR coffee table. Published by HR magazine, my only complaint is that they didn't do so sooner.

Fairhurst's main theme - the ‘whys' - has been the focus of his monthly column in HR magazine over the past few years. He explores the major issues facing the 21st century workplace: why we must demolish silos within the organisation; why HR must focus on the positive as well as the negative; and, my personal favourite, why we must truly value our values.

Talking of values, I really like the quotation he offers that values are like fingerprints - "nobody's are the same and you leave them all over everything you do". This from the same man who sang "it's one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go". Elvis Presley, of course. The book is full of surprising nuggets and commonsense gems. Indeed this is not the only rock and roll reference, as Keith Richards also gets a mention.

Any regular reader of HR magazine may feel a little short-changed as many of the articles appeared there first, but it's well worth re-reading them. The basic premise is that "it's people that make the difference" - they create the edge that matters to your customers. Serious HR people will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read.

Fairhurst has a very high profile in HR and the wider business world, and this book is essential reading for those with responsibility for people management. He asks us to challenge why we do what we do, and why we do it in the way we do it. "For HR to be truly effective it needs to put the organisation first and itself second. For HR to move forward, it's got to look forward."

HR issues are central to the business agenda, but the author points out that unless the function and its activities are truly strategic and genuinely adding value, it's going to be found out pretty quickly. He offers real insights for those who want to sit on the board and run a business.

All of this and it looks good on the coffee table, too. It would make an excellent stocking-filler for any HR professional next Christmas. And it is published and sold in a good cause as all profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

PS: I particularly liked the example of the incentive scheme at Harley Davidson and am actively canvassing my own staff to see if they would like a Fairplace logo or a picture of me as their tattoo.

To find out more about the book or to buy a copy, visit the website

Michael Moran is chief executive, Fairplace