Lean Organisations

A Powerful New Social Contract

It’s true: you don’t know what you don’t know! So, logically, you cannot miss it. But that does not justify the old adage that “ignorance is bliss.” You can certainly miss the benefits that the knowledge could bring you, which means your ignorance creates an opportunity cost of which you are blithely unaware. But are you the only one incurring this? If your customers and clients are aware of it, you will be and your business will be uncompetitive and struggle. If they are not, then the cost is multiplied and you are doing them and yourself a disservice, and running the risk of losing goodwill when they realise the fact. That is why we should always be open to new ideas and learning new things – a lesson I learned afresh recently.

Social Contract 33960354_s_123rf_comI cannot now remember where but I came across the term “social contract.” I had never consciously encountered the term before, so it seemed totally new to me. Thus it stuck in my mind, prompting me to look it up a few days later. I wasn’t surprised by its implications, but I was surprised to learn that it is far older than I would have surmised, for Wikipedia defines it as “an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection. Theories of a social contract became popular in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries among theorists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and the obligations of subjects.”

Certainly this is more wide-reaching than I had envisaged. While I would never dispute the need for a social contract between citizens and their government, I see a social contract as more fundamental: basically as the integral thread of any organisation, with government simply being a higher form of organisation. After all, any organisation is, by definition, a collective of people and, as such, involves reciprocal rights and obligations in order to survive and thrive. Thus you need a social contract to cement this reciprocity. More a matter of principle than legality and thus largely universal rather than specific, in an ideal world this should eliminate the need for individual employment contracts. In any case you would hope that these principles underpin all employment law.  

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that every employee “invests” a significant portion of their short time on this planet in their work. In return they are entitled to respect, reward and recognition of their need to optimise their lives. Similarly, the organisation operates in an ever-changing, competitive world that demands an ability to recognise, respond and adapt to change. Those characteristic are people-dependent and thus there is no getting away from a need for people. Thus, in order to ensure that it survives and thrives, every organisation needs engaged employees who subscribe to and care about the organisation and its needs, and who are willing to take the action necessary to meet those needs.  

You would think this reciprocity would be recognised and every effort made to achieve it. Yet this is not the case. For centuries commerce has been disrupted by industrial conflict: distorted by adversarial attitudes, disputes and “class warfare” between managers and workers.  Who knows what the cost of all this has been? It certainly needs to end.

Shaking hands 878566_s 123RFThat is why I was excited to realise that the Zealise ‘”Every Individual Matters” Model provides the perfect basis for building in and integrating the social contract. It resolves that enduring challenge of how to value employees as assets, and thereby reverses the de facto accounting and treatment of them solely as costs. This ensures that it becomes mutually beneficial to optimise employees’ capabilities, while simultaneously offering the means to ensure a less adversarial and more collaborative and co-operative attitude within organisations, as well as a more equitable way of distributing the rewards of their endeavours. Together this ensures an effective social contract that creates a culture of collaboration that optimises performance and results.

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If you like what you have read contact me today to explore how my original thinking could help you break though logjams that are inhibiting your business or how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.

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Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organizational culture model that helps transform organizational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


A Key to Optimising Your Human Capital

The perpetual balancing act between selfishness and selflessness, or self-interest and group-interest, is evolutionarily fundamental. So much so that it has been described as “The Paradox of Being Human.” Thus, while I have written about it before, I have not stopped thinking about it and it remains integral to everything I do. Recently, I have been seeking a way to portray it more effectively, and, in the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, more graphically.

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Busting Bureaucracy by Eliminating Hierarchy

Breakthrough 000004140750XSmallRather ironically, hours after posting my blog last week (Cats, Caterpillars and Business), I received reinforcing information that substantiated all my points. And from no less an authority than Professor Gary Hamel. He enumerates the staggering scale of efficiencies that I alluded to but couldn't quantify for myself.

Believe me, when I talk about staggering numbers, I am not exaggerating! Talking about the US alone, he quantifies “the prize” for “busting bureaucracy” as $3 trillion p.a.! Perhaps, writing it as $3,000,000,000,000 gives you a clearer idea of just how much that is. Especially when you factor in this is an annual figure! Even if that number is 50% over-optimistic it is still significant. And what if it is conservative? No matter how successful you are, the possibilities this presents have to make you curious. 

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Cats, Caterpillars and Business

Cat 123rf.com_19364806_sHave you ever noticed how sensitive a cat’s fur is? Barely touch a sleeping cat and it will twitch where you touch it.  It’s purely reflex, I know, but it is something I love doing and always makes me smile. But it provides a useful lesson.

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The Great Training Robbery

Robbery 123rf.com 53073401_sMuch as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!  

Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.  

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Addressing and Mastering “The Issue of Our Time”

It's happening. In the last three weeks alone, Foxconn announced it will replace 60,000 factory workers with robots, a former CEO of McDonald’s said given rising wages, the same would happen throughout their franchises, Walmart announced plans to start testing drones in its warehouses, and Elon Musk predicted fully autonomous car technology would arrive within two years.  

Artifical Intelligence 123rf.com 6383792_sWhether it's worker displacement, the skills gap, youth unemployment, or socio-economic stratification, the impact on society will be staggering. I’ve said it on multiple occasions and believe it even more so every day: creating economic opportunity will be the defining issue of our time.”

Those are the words of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, taken from his publication of his email to all LinkedIn employees announcing the company’s acquisition by Microsoft. Like Weiner, I am concerned about the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications. Thus I am delighted by his recognition of the phenomenon and its impact. It is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time, not only because of the need to create economic opportunity but because of the dangers inherent in failing to do so effectively. 

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Tension vs. Stress and How to Eliminate One to Avoid the Other

Stress free zone 42646457_sI 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. 

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How You Overcome That Great Fear

PASS iStock_000001252419Medium“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?

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How the Learning Cycle Fits into Organisational Development

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.

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A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“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.

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