Talent Management

The Power of Ownership

Ownership 123rf.com_12479597_sI have long championed employee ownership, which is a key element of my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model. It has always seemed self-evident to me that a sense of ownership would increase productivity, create greater cultural cohesion and secure strategic integrity with a clearer line of sight between strategy and its operationalisation with reduced industrial conflict. So much so that I have often felt naïve in putting it forward as a benefit.

A recent experience, however, showed me that, if anything, I have probably under-estimated the power of ownership.

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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.


Physics, Psychology and Business

Physics  Psychology & Business 123rf.com_97637392_sNewton’s 3rd Law of Physics. You might not remember it is as that but you almost certainly know it or have heard of it:  “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Even if you are familiar with it, you are unlikely to think about it very much or very often. And certainly not in a business context.

This isn’t your fault. It is perhaps simply the inevitable consequence of our natural human need to label things. By categorising this as a “physical law” you inevitably compartmentalise it as “scientific” and so fail to consider its applicability to business. But perhaps you ought to.

After all science pertains to all life. It is only convention (that need to label things) that causes us to break science into different fields. We tend to treat these as discrete and distinct when in reality they are not. The boundaries – like any – are subjective and artificial. As a result we may be short-changing ourselves, as I suggest we are in this instance.

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Transformation or Reformation

Reformation 64815722_s Copyright_www_123rf_com_profile_iqoncepWhat’s the difference anyway?

That is the question I found myself asking. I was reading the Pulitzer Prize winning author, James MacGregor Burns’ book “Leadership” when I came across this statement; “… leadership of reform movements must be among the most exacting.”  (Interestingly, reform leadership would appear to be even more demanding than revolutionary leadership – but that is a whole different topic!) However, it was as I read on and came across the statement, “… reform leaders must deal with endless divisions within their own ranks” that my brain kicked into overdrive.

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How Silo-thinking Spreads, Smothers Synergy and Suffocates Strategy

Silo-thinking: even if unfamiliar with the term, you are likely familiar with its effects. That’s because the root of silo-thinking is differentiation and distinction. And this has consequences – conscious and unconscious.

You define any activity, role or responsibility according to predefined criteria, which may be shaped by the person, their applied skills and training or the way in which they create, use or adapt a system to carry out their assigned tasks. This is all well and good; only all too often we tend to identify ourselves by our roles and what we do. Even Aristotle (384-322 BCE) recognised this, as he is reputed to have said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” As result we, personally or collectively, tend to become:

  • Protective and – clinging to the adage that “knowledge is power” – erect barriers to ensure that we maximise the perceived value of what we offer, and thereby our status; and/or
  • Self-absorbed or unduly focused and single-minded, and thus uncooperative.  

Silo 65112347_s Copyright_a href_https_www_123rf_com_profile_eugenesergeevCollectively this may be at the individual business unit, functional or even divisional business unit rather than at the enterprise level. But when it occurs at the collective level – and is recognised – it is identified it as ‘silo-thinking.’ That’s when you start to take steps to remedy it.  Unfortunately, even when you do, you may not realise how pervasive and pernicious it is.

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How to ‘Bazooka VUCA’

VUCA 77215276_s Copyright www.123rf.com_profile_alphaspirit_alphaspirit

VUCA is an acronym increasingly widely used to describe the operating climate you, like most organizations, face today: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This environment makes much of what you have learned about management obsolete and demands a new operating paradigm. A bazooka, as you may know, is a portable, electrically fired, rocket launcher for launching a projectile against tank armour.

Bazooka 43769439_s 123rf.comThe headline is a parody of a UK television advertisement for a brand of medical gel used to treat warts that calls for you to “Bazuka™ that Verruca!” By making a pun out of their brand name, the advertisers are attempting to convince you that their product will quickly and effectively exterminate your problem. VUCA is not so one-dimensional. Yet, while retaining the onomatopoeia and, hopefully, some sense of that imperative, my headline aims, rather, to alert you to the fact that you can still ‘blow up’ VUCA. 

An article from Chief Executive magazine Can you do VUCA? 5 Key Strategies for Success offers a good starting point. It not only explains VUCA and its ramifications but also clearly spells out proven, useful strategies for “doing” it.  These, however, will only take you so far. They are only strategies and, as you know only too well, there is a big difference between developing a strategy and implementing it. I am offering you something that will significantly strengthen your implementation arsenal.

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From Change Management to Change Mastery

Mastery 1 123rf.com_50144423_sChange is a fact of life. It is also a major factor in it. Increasingly so. Both the amount of change and the faster pace of change are widely acknowledged. No doubt you feel it yourself. Just imagine what somebody who died only 40-50 years ago would think if they were to come back today (as I sometimes do with my father.) And, in his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter claims that this is not going to slow down soon, but rather speed up! This makes the future daunting. 

Change is supposed to make life easier. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, especially initially. It takes time to familiarise yourself with, and adapt to, the new; let alone master it.  So when change comes fast and furious, proficiency becomes elusive and mastery next to impossible.  This is discouraging, demotivating and stressful. It is no wonder so many change initiatives are unsuccessful.

More frightening, however, is that the sheer volume of change makes it seem highly unlikely the proportion of successful change will improve. (The fact that this sad statistic hasn’t changed in decades, despite greater focus on change management, seems to support this prognosis.) Yet there is a way you can beat the odds. The answer is actually implied in “Leading Change,” but – ironically – has not been fully understood or applied.

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Slip the Surly Bonds of Misguided Management Theory

You cannot help wondering what management lessons need to be learned from the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster. Undoubtedly the Inquiry will highlight many. Yet it appears that there also plenty to be learned from the post-fire management.

Uncuffed 123rf_16888401_sIt seems that every day a fresh incident raises somebody’s ire, and outrage and fury abound as those dealing with the consequences are portrayed as callous, unfeeling or bungling incompetents. In all likelihood some of the criticism is justified, but there seems to no allowance for the unprecedented nature of the catastrophe. For example, is it really realistic to expect all victims to be in permanent new homes just three weeks after the fire?

Goodness knows, identifying and acquiring a new home is difficult for most of us at the best of times. It certainly isn’t something that we normally do in a matter of days. So, why would we expect these poor people to be any different, especially given the difficulty of finding homes in London? So, would you or I do better if we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

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The Power of Ownership

Ownership 33960354_s“Mine!”  Who hasn’t heard a young child say that? The concept of ownership is one of our most primitive senses.  Indeed, I once read that the difference between North American and South American history, (both colonised around the same time) could be attributed to the encouragement of land ownership stimulating the greater development of the North.    

Be that as it may, you would have some difficulty arguing against the idea that ownership is an integral part of capitalism. The concepts of limited liability and the lasting, legal persona of the corporation would not have been possible, or nearly as successful, without distributed ownership and the amelioration of risk it created. So much so, that you might even argue that ownership is the heart of capitalism. Which is why it is strange that so little has been done to make employees owners. Even stranger – and certainly ironic – is that efforts to encourage this are sometimes seen as socialism!  

In fact, making your employees co-owners of your business has to be the ultimate in capitalism. Why? Because it also gives them a stake in the outcome. This makes it more personal. It gives them the pride of possession. Now, instead of simply being ‘servants of the organisation’ they become ‘partners in our organisation.’

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Nothing to Lose and Everything to Gain!

“Mine!” “No! Mine!” How often have you seen that scenario play out? I certainly found it a recurring theme over the holidays as I watched my two very young grandchildren play. And I would guess that 95 out of 100 initially happy games that ended up in tears, did so when such conflict arose. Even when it wasn’t about direct ownership, it was about perceived injustices over “turns” or temporary ownership of a particular activity. The concept of possession thus seems to be a deeply ingrained in our culture from a very early age.

Whether this is good or bad, is actually irrelevant. Less materialistic cultures, such as the San people of the Kalahari, suggest that it is possible to have a culture without ownership and consequently with considerably less conflict. This, arguably, makes ownership the Pandora’s Box that seems to be the price we pay for civilisation and something that is almost impossible to discard. Indeed, you could argue that ownership underpins capitalism, which, historically, has been responsible for the world’s major economic development.

Yet, even in commerce, ownership is a root of contention and conflict. You only have to watch “Dragon’s Den” or “Shark Tank”, with would be entrepreneurs pondering an investment offer to see this.

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