"What distinguishes our age from any other is not the world-flattening impact of communication; not the economic ascendance of China and India, not the degradation of our climate and not the resurgence of ancient religious animosities. Rather, it is a frantically accelerating pace of change." Gary Hamel, The Future of Management.
Even our recessions come faster and threaten to hit harder than anything we have seen to date!
Hamel's statement, made before the recession, is fundamental to his case for a new management approach. He argues the historical management model is outdated, asking, "Why, then, are the views of senior executives, so often granted a higher co-efficient of credibility than the convictions of mid- and lower level employees? Overweighting the views of those who are furthest away from the customer, and have most of their emotional equity invested in the past, is hardly the recipe for building a resilient enterprise."
The pace and severity of the recession seems to reinforce this and validate Hamel's view that, "It often appears that large companies have borrowed their change model from poorly governed third-world dictatorships." If the scale of redundancies and mass layoffs witnessed since the start of the recession and the reluctance of high level executives to forego their perks does not corroborate this, it certainly highlights the feudal practices still embedded in modern management practice.
Hamel's solution is more proactive management systems allowing greater adaptability. Summarising a key theme that employees need more thinking time, he states, "Too much of what gets done in most companies is a response to some already pressing issue; there's no slack, no space for improvisation, and no way to defend projects that are not already useful." While entirely logical this actually presents a massive challenge for it runs totally counter to the traditional call for improved productivity.
It also presents massive logistic challenges. Let's see why.
The Mathematics of the Working Year
1. There are 365 days per year available for work.
2. We already have 2 days off per week (Saturdays and Sundays) for 52 weeks per year, i.e. 104 days, which leaves only 261 days for work.
3. Paid holidays entitle us to a further 20 days off work, which leaves only 241 days for work.
4. There are 9 public holidays a year which leaves us with 232 days for work.
5. In a company you can normally take off less than three days sick without a doctor's note, although not more than three times a year. That means that you can take a further 6 days off, leaving you with 226 days a year for work.
6. But a (generous) working day is only 8 hours, which means that one is actually only really working for 75 days. (226/3)
7. Allowing half an hour for lunch, and another half an hour for tea/coffee and nature breaks means you lose a further 9 days (226/24) which means you end up working only for 66 days or 1,584 hours a year.
This is the UK figure and may vary slightly from country to country. It should also be noted that it does not include time spent in meetings, or training, which means that the average person is likely to spend considerably less than 1,500 hours actually working in any given year. This begs the question as to how much time there actually is for any proactive work of the type Hamel is recommending. Yet, he gives several good examples of companies that have successfully adopted such practices.
That being the case, one can only wonder how companies that are laying off people due to the economic climate, can ever hope to compete effectively again. Are they really saving themselves for the future; are they sabotaging their future or are they effectively committing suicide? One thing is for sure - if they wish to thrive, they need to change their strategies pretty quickly and the Zealise way offers the best hope for embedding adaptability and resilience to change.