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Articles
 

Earthquake

The unavoidable transition from organizations based on survival and control to organizations based on personal greatness.

Aviad Goz

It has been for a while now that seismic waves are rocking the organizational world.

Alongside with the obvious financial earthquake, this is an invisible earthquake, taking

place on an individual level. When it reaches a critical mass, it will erupt and the full force of its power will be evident.

 

Since the industrial revolution, thousands of organizations have been established throughout the world whose aim was the fulfillment of the economic axiom: "to maximize profit for owners or shareholders". This was an industrial age paradigm. In order to maximize profits with no other major consideration or responsibility, various methods have been developed in time that together created what will be referred hereto as: "an organization based on survival and control". These methods include:

Focus on the bottom line every quarter

The well-known "carrot and stick" methods

Endless working hours

Under –staffing

Rising demands from employees

Imposition of regular changes

Threat of redundancy

Persecution of those who reveal corruption

Organizational politics based on survival, etc.

 

In the above described organizational world, the dominating elements are survival, fear and control. These are not talked about or mentioned, yet they are present. The motto is: "do what you are told, fit in, or you will lose your income, your permanency and at the least your chances for promotion".

In this organizational world, people work fourteen to sixteen hours a day because "this is the norm'. People are hooked up to their cellular phone and to the internet for twenty four hours a day because "everyone does and I am expected to do so as well".

People often do not dare to say what is on their minds "since it will harm my promotion". People suffer quietly from bad managers and incapable leaders because "he is my boss". These phenomena are well documented in Kay Gilley's excellent book: "The Alchemy of fear"

 

Why are people willing to adhere to all those phenomena?

The answer can be found in the basic motives of security and tenure. Both of these motives were important for the previous generation, that of wars, holocaust and survival and were passed on to the next generation as part of its basic education. Sentences such as "learn a profession that will help you make a living", "it's important to find a good job"," there is nothing more important than tenure at work" are not strange to any of us. It is hard to break the barrier of fears for survival, security and tenure. Many structures and relations are based on those fears. They were built mostly informally and unknowingly by employers and employees.

It is apparent that in what was a stable world of organizations and employment that was based on control and survival, there are cracks that are increasing in size.

 

Firstly, the psychological contract of tenure in work between employer and employee has collapsed. Thousands of people are being made redundant, thrown out, or replaced in the framework of reductions, changes, mergers, and takeovers. Secondly, independent, talented workers find themselves trapped in those above described organizations. After suffering the feeling of being trapped for a number of years, these excellent employees muster up courage and break out from the organization, becoming independent workers or working as freelancers. Some of them even continue their previous occupation within the same company as freelancers or being used in outsourcing or as consultants. Entire groups of "knowledgeable workers" whose main assets are knowledge, ability to think, or creativity, are not willing to agree to orders of a bad or stupid manager who has been put above them. More and more people want to be involved, to have influence, to take responsibility for their future and most importantly to fulfill their potential and talents. This is very typical for what is considered as "generation Y"

 

Henry Ford had an immortal saying "when you come to work in my factory, park your brain at the door". This saying is no longer relevant in organizations whose workforce is majorly "knowledge age" workers.

During workshops or lectures that I give, I sometimes ask "out of all those attending, who fulfills the extent of their potential and talent in their present position?" Occasionally one or two hands are raised in groups of tens or hundreds of people. What does this mean? And what are the implications? These phenomena and others are the cause for a trend that is becoming more and more evident whereby outstanding and excellent workers in many organizations develop independent employment frameworks or become "freelancers'.

 

In certain areas of the U.S.A., thirty percent of the work force has the freelancer status. In some western countries, it stands at about ten percent and this trend is increasing.

If this is so, are we going to see the loss of key talent workers in mediocre organizations? Will these organizations be based mainly on outsourcing of talented individuals? What will happen to an organization that becomes mediocre and less than that? The answers to these questions will become clearer in the next few years.

Nevertheless, there are hardly any organizational models that are based on a structure different to the one of survival, control and fear. An alternative model may be an organizational structure based on the greatness and growth of people and not on fear and their basic needs for existence. The foundation for such models must be that of excellence and personal development that are in the focus of organizational activity.

This requires a flexible model that allows people to grow, to change and to develop in their careers, to influence and to reach a higher level of contribution. In order to establish such "future organizations" a scheme of managers' development or one day workshops will not be enough.

What will be required is a whole paradigm shift to new Win-Win models. The foundation for such models is the understanding that the aim of the organization is to create the optimal value for every stake holder - employees, managers, owners, customers, suppliers, community most of the time (as opposed to creating value just for shareholders). These are models with much larger scope of responsibility including social and environmental.

This paradigm creates a dramatic change in self-perception, perception of the organization and of work. Until such models will be developed, companies will suffer from more and more earthquakes. Each earthquake will be accompanied by the retirement of key talents from the organization. There will be an increasing frustration inside organizations when "the carrot and the stick" methods will no longer be sufficient.

Presently, the first "future organizations" that are based on greatness and development of their employees are emerging. These are usually small organizations, or autonomic divisions within larger organizations, usually created by future bound leadership.

 

 

 

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