Re-imagining Work for The New DecadeBy Josh Allan Dykstra on January 26, 2011 in Thought Leadership
Since you read this blog, you’re likely already convinced that something about the way we work needs to change.
You might also believe that by sharing our collective wisdom and passion on blogs like this one, each of us can return to our work post-read and be a force for good in our respective organizations.
I have an even larger question.
What if it’s not just something about work that needs to change?
What if it’s just about everything?
Over the last decades, the idea of “change” has become a mainstay in business. Our organizational relationship with change is an intense and perennial affair. “Change management” consultants are hired, enormous “change initiatives” are undertaken, but the way we work never actually changes.
Why is this?
Our institutions are strikingly limited in their ability to evolve, simply because of what they are. Their inability to grow is programmed into their DNA. As Peter Block & John McKnight point out, institutions are built on the idea of systems. The systems that make up our businesses today reduce risk and unpredictability by maintaining power and control. These systems are designed to deliver efficiency through predictable replication. They brings sameness, safe and homogenized.
But “sameness,” secure as it may seem, is exactly what doesn’t work in today’s rapid, organic, tribal marketplace. And the fact that our systems create this kind of replication means they will invariably fail when they are used on humans.
This is the fundamental flaw in our organizations as they are built today.
Human beings are infinitely more complex than our industrial-age systems. We’ve found time and time again that reducing variability through HR — attempting to ‘Six Sigma’ our people — fails miserably.
As Umair Haque says in a provocative new article, the habits our current systems impose — the replication of tasks that are simply part of an institution’s DNA — are the very things that drive us to hate our jobs. But they are just doing what we built them to do. In a Frankensteinian twist, our creation has become a monster. It makes us zombies during meetings, dread Mondays, and hate the never-ending banal tasks that eventually suck out our souls. (Plus, these tasks generally do very little to actually create authentic value for customers, but that’s a topic for another day.)
What if, as we embark on a new year and a new decade, we could re-imagine the very fabric of our organizations?
What if we could tear down the industrial baggage of our old institutions and start to rebuild something meaningful, value-adding, and life-affirming?
This will not be easy.
For everything to change, it will take creativity, art, and flair. It will require pioneers, courageous and brazen.
But it also may be the only way out of our current mess.
The views expressed are his/her own.
Photo of homeless asking for change by another.point.in.time. Licensed under CC.