“It’s what I do, not who I am.” Did you ever say that? Or hear someone else say it? If you did, it’s because something’s wrong at work. Or, rather, with work.
Too many jobs are about filling roles in systems and processes whose purposes aren’t fully understood. Too many people have lost their personal, human connections at - and with - work.
In “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” Matthew Crawford writes that the modern employee isn’t a whole person:
“There is a disconnect between his work life and his leisure life; in the one he accumulates money and in the other he accumulates psychic nourishment. Each part depends on and enables the other, but does so in the manner of a transaction between sub-selves rather than as the intelligibly linked parts of a coherent life."
Work doesn’t have to be that way. And you don’t have to be a motorcycle mechanic or have a 4-hour work week for things to be different.
I have hope - and I have evidence - that work is changing.
I want to chronicle this change. I see and feel it happening where I work. And I see and feel it happening at the companies I deal with. I want to tell the stories of what’s possible and accelerate the change.
In 1951, Edward R. Murrow introduced “the personal philosophies of thoughtful men and women in all walks of life...the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives.”
Here are mine.
10 things I believe about work
- I believe that autonomy, mastery, purpose, and community are fundamental human motivators. (Daniel Pink writes of the first three in “Drive.”) We are hardwired to want control over the work we do and to get better at it. To do it for a good reason and with people we connect with.
- I believe any job that appeals to these motivators can be fulfilling.
- I believe the essence of good management - of leadership - is to make jobs fulfilling. That this is the best way, by far, to increase productivity.
- I believe most of what we actually call management and leadership is distributing information, distributing work, and reviewing employees - all of which can be done better with more open, on-line, social systems.
- I believe many management practices, particularly promotion and performance systems, are grossly flawed. Like an introductory physics class, they make assumptions that have no place in reality. They compare different people and roles despite the lack of objective criteria. They reduce people to numbers. Then they compound the errors by forcing numerical distributions on teams of all sizes. It's absurd and de-humanizing.
- I believe social business platforms enable better management. They let everyone shape their own reputation through public contribution. That visibility, in turn, provides greater access to opportunities. Managers will no longer need to - or be able to - serve as patrons, arbiters, and gatekeepers.
- I believe communities of practice - groups of people in similar jobs who share learning and measurably advance their practice - are essential complements to traditional, hierarchical, organizations. And building them is an excellent way to introduce a workforce to the new ways of working.
- I believe Gallup was right in asserting that increased engagement at work boosts productivity. They said disengagement costs $300 billion in the US. I think they’re off by a factor of at least 3.
- I believe social business platforms can unleash even more value by fundamentally changing basic work practices and eliminating waste and inefficiency.
- I believe many people feel such changes are both necessary and possible but don't know how to start. Few people know how to apply social tools and practices to change what people do every day.
This is why I feel the need to tell more stories of what’s working and not working. To help accelerate both the learning and the doing.
I fervently believe we have to change the work. For ourselves, our companies, and our collective future.