Why does Work Suck?

If you’d like to know the answer that question, I have a new book for you to read: “Why Work Sucks” by Cali and Jody.

This book (which I haven’t started reading yet…but I plan to start soon) seems to follow the Ricardo Semler approach to organizational developing as outlined in “Maverick” and “Seven Day Weekend“.

The book introduces the concept of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). An excerpt from Cali and Jody’s website describes ROWE as:

In a ROWE, people are paid for a chunk of work, not for a chunk of time. This simple idea creates a workforce that is energized, focused, disciplined, and happy, and it’s already transformed the corporate work culture at Best Buy – a Fortune 100 retailer.

Their Book Page has this to add:

In a “Results-Only” company or department, employees can do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as business objectives are achieved. No more pointless meetings, racing to get in at 9:00, or begging for permission to watch your kid play soccer. No more cramming errands into the weekend, or waiting until retirement to take up your hobbies again. You make the decisions about what you do and where you do it, every minute of every day.

Results Only Work Environment’s (ROWE‘s) are an ideal situation for any organization who wants their employees to truly be happy. This environment makes it OK for employees to go grab a coffee with a friend at 10AM or go run a few errands whenever they need to.

ROWE seems counter-intuitive to some people…but makes perfect sense to anyone who’s ever sat through a 8 hour day thinking about how they will get their errands accomplished for the week.

One particular area that I’m interested in exploring, and what has touched off my book idea, is integrating ROWE with a common sense approach to business.  How do we remove the layers of bureaucracy that exists in many organizations (e.g., adherence to antiquated procedures, 4 hour meetings with no outcome, etc).

Specifically, I’m interested in exploring the topic of ROWE in the IT space.  How would this type of environment work in an IT organization with the strict focus on process and procedure? How will a project based IT organization adapt to a results focused environment where people have the freedom to work when and where they want?

Look for more thoughts on these questions in the future.  Until then, read more on ROWE and Semler’s approach to organizations with the following articles.

Mass Career Customization

I recently finished reading Mass Career Customization, the newly released book from Deloitte’s Cathleen Benko and Anne Weisberg (published by Harvard Business Press).

The Quick review: Great book with some excellent ideas.

The long review (well…not real long):

The authors do a very good job of outlining the issues and trends that are pressing employees today. The main issues, according to the authors, are:

  • Knowledge Worker Shortfall
  • Changing Family Structures
  • More & Better Educated Women
  • The changing expectations of Men
  • Generational Maturity (Gen X & Y)
  • Technology

These issues are definitely affecting organizations and employees and there has been little thought put into how to allow employees to structure their lives and careers to address these issues.

The authors provide a framework, which they’ve called “Mass Career Customization” (MCC) that allows employees and organizations to customize a career. This framework provides four dimensions that can be used to customize a career at any given point in time. These dimensions, Pace, Workload, Location/Schedule and Role, are well thought out and well crafted ways to customize a career. According to the authors, these dimensions are defined as (taken from page 84):

  • Pace – options relating to the rate of career progression
  • Workload – choices relating to the quanity of work output
  • Location/Schedule – Options for when and where work is performed
  • Role – Choices in position and responsibilities.

Let’s consider an example of how MCC works:

Assume you are a person just out of college. You take a job with a large company and want to get on ‘the fast track’ to career growth and experience. You, along with your manager, would use the MCC framework to increase the dimensions of Pace, Workload and possibly Location/Schedule so that you can gain as much experience in the business as you can. The Role dimension would be at its lowest level since your role would be as an individual contributor.

Now, assume you’ve worked for 3 years with this same MCC model and are getting tired of the pace of life and want to settle down a bit and go back to school for your MBA. At this time, you and your manager would sit down and develop another MCC model for your career to possibly reduce Pace and Workload while increasing your role to a position that moves you into a managerial role.

Further along in your career, you can use the MCC framework to structure your work-life balance in order to do what you need to do.

The overall goal of MCC is to provide a method for allowing employees and organizations to utilize the talent pool in a more effective manner. I can’t help but think of the books by Ricardo Semler (Maverick, Seven Day Weekend) which discuss the need to treat employees like adults and allow them to do their job in whatever way they feel most comfortable with. I think the Mass Career Customization framework is getting us closer to that type of organization.

This book is a very interesting book…I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the art/science of making organizations more effective and employee friendly.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher as an advanced review copy.

[tags] Mass Career Customization, books, culture, organization, Human Resources [/tags]

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Organizational Culture

In a post last week, I mentioned that I was reading “The Seven Day Weekend” by Ricardo Semler…I am still reading the book (I’m slow OK?) and have been reading chapter seven. This chapter begins with Ricardo discussing an organizations’ culture and the need to be very careful not to create an organization of sameness. Ricardo argues that one trap that most organizations fall into is the trap of hiring ‘the best and brightest MBA’s from the best schools’. An excerpt from the chapter is below:

By drawing students from the same social strata, subjecting them to the same system of rewards and punishment, and immersing them in the same theories, attitudes, prejudices, and practices, graduate schools of business produce an astounding level of uniformity among MBA recipients, a uniformity that is a danger to an organization.

-Ricardo Semler, The Seven Day Weekend. Page 144.

How true.

We’ve all seen the job postings out there that say “MBA from top school” or something similar. I’ve always wondered about the thought process behind that…if you only hire people with MBA’s from Stanford, Harvard, Chicago, etc aren’t you overlooking a good portion of society? By limiting the selection pool, aren’t you ultimately predetermining the type of person you hire?

By hiring only those people with certain pedigrees, an organization is predetermining their future by hiring only those people with the same backgrounds and outlook on business.

Why not take a chance and hire someone with an MBA from a bottom-tier university and see what type of outlook they bring to your organization? Or better yet, why not take a chance and interview someone as far removed from a top-tier MBA program as you can…they may bring a completely new outlook to your business.

[tags] organization, culture, Ricardo Semler, MBA [/tags]

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Profits & Morality

I’ve been reading Ricardo Semler‘s phenomenal book “The Seven Day Weekend” and just ran across this quote:

Cash on hand, revenue, and profits are wonderful indeed, but say precious little if taken on their own. …. Profits must be judged as moral or immoral by how they are earned and how they are disposed.
– Ricardo Semler, “The Seven Day Weekend”, Page 108-109.

What a refreshing statement to hear these days.

[tags] Ricardo Semler, Profits, Morality [/tags]

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Participative Management

When I first heard of participative management, I thought that it must be some ‘new fad’ (which isn’t true at all) and after reading a few things about this management model, I decided to dive a little deeper.

Participative management has been defined by Barron’s as:

An open form of management where employees have a strong decision-making role. Participative management is developed by managers who actively seek a strong cooperative relationship with their employees. The advantages of participative management include increased productivity, improved quality, and reduced costs

To get a good look at this type of management style, all you need to do is read the book Maverick by Ricardo Semler. The book has been around for quite some time…it was originally published in 1988 as Turning the Tables and republished in 1993 as Maverick. The book does a good job of explaining the transformation of Semco into a large, profitable conglomerate. The key to Semco’s success, according to Semler, is their implementation of participative management.

There are other examples of companies who have been successful using this type of organizational mentality are. The most well known is probably W.L. Gore & Associates (makers of Gore-Tex), who have embraced participative management methods for many years.

The W.L. Gore website provides the following as an example of their corporate culture:

Our founder, Bill Gore created a flat lattice organization. There are no chains of command nor pre-determined channels of communication. Instead, we communicate directly with each other and are accountable to fellow members of our multi-disciplined teams.

How does all this happen? Associates (not employees) are hired for general work areas. With the guidance of their sponsors (not bosses) and a growing understanding of opportunities and team objectives, associates commit to projects that match their skills. All of this takes place in an environment that combines freedom with cooperation and autonomy with synergy.

The ideas behind participative management are fairly straightforward and something that I agree with. I’ve always believed in open and honest communications, freedom and transparency.

I’m sure that there are people out there that look at this type of management model as being ‘soft’, but I look at it and see some things that I like. Namely:

  • Transparency of business operations
  • Employee growth through job rotation
  • Open & Honest Communications
  • Employee involvement in their career

There are some things that I don’t like (or perhaps I just don’t understand them) about the Semco version of participative management though. Some of the things described in Maverick are hard for me to swallow…especially the fact that the employees have the ability to set their own salaries. Somehow this just doesn’t sit well with me.

But who am I to argue…it seems to have worked for Semco and W.L. Gore and possibly other organizations. If you know of any other organizations that have succeeded using a participative management model, I’d love to hear about them.

[tags] W.L. Gore, Semco, Participative Management, Ricardo Semler, Maverick [/tags]

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