I am reading Brian J Robertson's book "Holacracy". As I do it has dawned on me that the reason why command and control management has not been buried – despite longstanding claims that it is dead – is because we have not yet found a model that replaces our hierarchical structures. I know that is rather an embarrassing admission to have to make, but the truth is I had never consciously thought about it in such simple terms before, despite all my efforts to help inter it. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to reflect on why that has been the case and to develop new ideas that will further the cause.
“Fear is the expectation of evil.” I came across and was struck by that definition recently. It came strongly to mind this week when I read a research report about CEOs’ greatest fears. Apparently, for a whopping 64%, the single biggest fear is of disruptive ideas and the impact they might have on their business.
Thus, according to that definition of fear, business leaders see new ideas as evil. You have to find that incredibly ironic if, like me, you believe:
- Business exists for the purpose of meeting needs;
- The more the business meets those needs the better the business will do;
- Business leaders are responsible for shaping the way the organisation meets those needs.
With that attitude, you might even say that CEOs could be the biggest barriers to change in their organisations.
If nothing else, that possibility should give you pause to think. As defence you may claim that there is a very big difference between “new ideas” and “disruptive ideas.” Maybe so, but where do you draw the line? How do you distinguish one from the other? More importantly, how do you know that you are not rejecting good ideas that could achieve wonders for your business?
Apparently the achievement of learning induces a chemical reaction within the body that makes the learner feel happy and good about themselves. This past week-end I experienced this for myself. In fact, I got such a ‘buzz’ that I cannot resist sharing what I learned. I hope you experience a similar ‘high’!
It all began with an introduction into Max Boisot’s theories about the learning. Like most people, I was already aware of the distinction between data and information and so the differentiation between information and knowledge was only a small step. Likewise to understand that knowledge has no value until it is put into use. However, the discussion was around why knowledge isn’t always put to use and that is what was so enlightening. The following diagram is my interpretation and helps explain better.
“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.” This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal. But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.
My wife and I love this picture. So much so that, when our son gave it to us after we acquired our ginger cat, we framed it and put it on display. We found it funny, but, more than that, it also seemed true to life, because, when the kitten wanted food, his vociferous demands indicated that he definitely saw himself as a lion!
Yet the picture has a deeper message too. It also conveys the idea that we all have grand aspirations. In fact you could say it is a graphic illustration of an engaged employee! Unfortunately we often seem to forget that – especially in our dealings with other people, and employees in particular. Nobody wants to do a bad job. We all want to be lions. So, are you giving all your employees the chance to be the lion they envisage, or do you keep them as kittens?
It started before the “Great Recession” but that period of economic history has seen it proliferate even more. Certainly reports suggest the trend of hiring contract workers is growing. Yet it is something you need to think about very carefully.
Like most people I have been appalled by the recent report on child sex abuse in Rotherham where, for those that may not be aware of it, over 1400 mostly children, some as young as 11, had been sexually abused over a 16 year period. Shocking though that figure is for a single town, what I find even more shocking are the circumstances that enabled this to take place. What were those in authority doing?
It seems there were 3 prevalent attitudes that enabled things to develop on the scale they did:-
It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.
This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.
As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?
Day 6: The Return
Thus it was that 5:30 a.m. the next morning saw me sitting on my computer bag trying to fit in all my newly acquired clothes, before squeezing in my laptop.
Amazingly I managed, and was able to wander down to reception to check out wheeling only my computer bag and carrying a shopping bag with the now much-hated new shoes. These I was delighted to hand over to the even more delighted bellboy, who I had previously established wore the same size and who had even offered to go out and buy a new pair for me! Then, feeling even more denuded than when I arrived, I took a taxi to the airport.
Fortunately no-one queried my slightly awkward, bulging hand luggage (I would not have been liable for my actions if they had!) and I had an uneventful flight to Paris. With a little time before catching my connecting flight, I stopped at the Air France Customer Service Desk to once again ask about my missing luggage. After all, as my suitcase must have made the initial flight but hadn’t made it to Tunis, Paris seemed the most likely place to find it. Based on my poor customer experience to date I thought that I should personally make every effort while there, and envisaged repeating what we had done in Tunis.
Once again, however, things did not work out as I hoped.
Days 2 and 3: The Saga of Socks and Shoes.
Unfortunately over the next couple of days things got worse.
At the end of Day 2 there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I had not expected such poor customer service and this was bad news, made worse by the fact that I had packed my proven, comfortable shoes in my suitcase. This had given me a problem.