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Tag: future of work

3 conflicting views of management and the recession

RECESS RECORDS

 

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Hmm, my little survey of our reactions to the credit crunch show surprising optimism.  Briefly we haven’t been hit yet, we are doing little planning and we expect to use the recession to leap ahead.

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Management gurus such as Henry Mintzberg believe that we have less of an economic crisis and a massive management crisis – our structures don’t allow good decision making.  Very much in the lap of HR?

3

And Watson Wyatt report HR responses to the crunch/recession.  Cut back on costs including training.

Is that all that is necessary, and possible?  Tidy up a little and slow the economy by spending less?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

UPDATE:  Best to carry on living, but with verve and vigor!  Step into your dream and make it happen in spite of the recession!

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The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

I am very very tired after a hard weekend cranking out lecture notes.  Rather than go into the details of why that is so tiring, I would like to take another tack.  How do we recover from exhaustion?

David Whyte, corporate poet, has popularized the saying: the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.  So should I tackle another set of notes?  No, not quite.  I should spend the few hours of the evening moving towards the “channel in which my life flows” (Thoreau).

One way positive psychologists use to take us closer to our ‘natural element’ is to express gratitude.  So I thought I would mention one person who I think represents what is good and true, better and possible in contemporary UK.

Chris Hambly, musician, helicopter technician, social media guru, tertiary educator is one of the extraordinary connectors of the emerging internet-based creative industries in the UK.  He is the prime mover behind the Social Media Mafia, he sponsors media camps in High Wycombe & London, he runs conventional conferences on Social Media in Business, he advises on the use of social media in business and he manages online education for organizations such as SAE (sound and audio engineering).

Chris represents the best of up-and-coming Brits.  He represents what is emerging, what is hopeful, what is helpful, and what represents real value.  Check him out as an antidote to the credit crunch and bailout blues.

And it works.  I feel better.  Wholeheartedness is the antidote to exhausation.

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What is your Vision of the Future?

Street fortune teller consults with client in Taichung, Taiwan

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What do you expect from a futurologist?

I was disappointed by the Microsoft Visions of the Future event in London, though to be honest, we left before it was finished. We had heard, or partially heard three long rambling speeches. The visuals were on domestic-sized screens that only a handful of people could see, and the audience had started talking amongst themselves.

What I heard wasn’t very new either. I have been treated to at talk by a futurologist elsewhere and I was stunned then that there was little, if anything, new in the speech. Puzzled by this happening again, I shot off a question on LinkedIn: what do you expect from a talk by a futurologist?

The first few replies thought I meant “fortune teller” and some others thought “a waste of my time”. James Stuart replied more seriously. He suggested two features:

a) pointing to inter-relationships between events that aren’t immediately obvious

and

b) helping the audience understand that the future is made through their choices.

What do psychologists and futurologists have in common?

I thought that what James suggested resonated with a brilliant description of the practice of psychology that I found years ago. I am sorry I don’t have the reference still. If you recognize it, please do let me know.

All psychologists, whether we are clinical, educational or work/occupational, do three things:

a) We have models and ideas that we can put at our clients’ disposal.

b) We have experience of other people solving similar problems.

c) We stick with our client while they think through their predicament and experiment with a solution.

First, on the basis of published ideas, we know what questions to ask. Then we have some idea, from observing other people, what it is like to be faced with the dilemma facing our client. And importantly, we are loyal to our client while they are struggling with a problem that is intimidating.

  • It is important that we can observe patterns that are not obvious to other people.
  • And we understand the object of the exercise is action.

When I listen to a futurologist, I want to hear them point to interactions between emerging events that require data and models far deeper than I have available from public media.  And the information must help me see what action I must take. I must experience an “aha!’ and intense relief that I now know what to do. I still have to do it, but I need some clarity about what I want to do next.

Of course futurologists are probably talking about the macro-environment: politics, economics, social change and technological change.  Models of psychology are usually about ways individuals make sense of the world: hope, intimacy, vocation, & schooling.

My understanding of the future

In psychology, I find the 21st century so exciting that I find it hard to think ahead.

As a vision of the future, it is worth flicking through Jane McGonigle’s presentation at SXSW 2008.  Jane believes that eventually we will all be in the business of happiness.  And she can outline the psychological principles to engineer happiness.

Curriculum Illusione is a Dutch site that gives you an interactive time line to map the future, and, how you intend to interact with it.  It is quite challenging.
I would be interested in your opinion of both.

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Eric Schmidt talking to Gary Hamel

Listen (no pun intended – 70 minutes).

 

Notes:

Eric Schmidt is the CEO of Google.  Gary Hamel is a Professor of Management at Harvard.  Schmidt’s main message is that leaders of innovative organizations like Google must listen, listen, listen.  A good listen!

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The essence of leadership is follow me

Even if it is only out of curiosity

Now who said that? Colin Powell, I believe, speaking to HR managers in the UK.

Culture, attitudes, behavior

My friend Steve Roesler at AllThingsWorkplace posted today on workplace culture, and how hard it is to change behavior. This is a central topic in social and organizational psychology. Can we change an attitude without changing behavior? Can we change behavior without changing culture? What sustains culture?

Earlier today I read a similar article in TimesOnLine on whether politicians can change British drinking culture by decree.

David Aaronvitch used a neat phrase:

“Fashion, popular culture, whatever you call it, found a way round authority, because it didn’t depend upon authority, or even upon establishment approval.”

This is the same phenomenon that Steve is talking about: informal culture and power. Should we despair as the TimesOnLine suggests? Brits are drunks – live with it and laugh at politicians nannying us again? Can cultures be modified?

How do we change patterns?

My social media friends will phrase this differently: can we organize viral campaigns?

I think we often put the cart before the horse.

Change effects tend to be spiral, or recursive. In other words, the change creates the change. And a forward change can cause a backward effect, necessary for the forward change.

So why the cart before the horse? We want the cart to be moving along with the horse following.

To get change, we have to join in. We have to be there in other words. We have put ourselves out there and be changed in the process. We have to believe that cart is worth pulling. We have to notice when it starts to roll back and judge whether to roll with it or dig our heels in.  We have to believe in it enough to feel the harness rubbing . . .

It is the linkage that is critical.

Being a player

In organizations, it is the willingness to be a player: to really put our money on the table. Willingness to win and to lose with everyone else.

  • Are we willing to sit at the table and make tough choices? And be accountable for the consequences?
  • Do we believe in our people enough to be accountable on the bad days?
  • Can we have the courageous conversations about what is truly rotten?
  • Can we accept the challenge about how we have treated people?
  • Can we do all of this will only one end in mind – keeping the group there for its members?

We don’t want to be talked at.  We want to talk with people who are also vulnerable in that their pride, future, pleasure, is also at stake.  We want to talk seriously with people about why we are doing this, whatever this is, and authentically discuss what is at stake for everyone.

Can we link our our futures to that cart?

Leading from within

This is the competency that HR Managers struggle with.

This is the competency that I hope social media managers will learn early ~ to be a player.

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ReadWriteWeb has come alive . . .

. . . with great and interesting posts every day.

Today Alex wrote on the recession, which is worrying lots of people. I’m a Zimbo so I am going, ahh! this ain’t so hard. Forgive me. This is what I have to say.

1. I have never worked with a lazy person, ever.

I have worked with people who were thoroughly disengaged and very unhappy. I have worked with people who I thought were misdirected (yes I thought, they didn’t).

People like working. The great trick is integrating people. And I will be the first to say that can be hard. I always take the view that we hired someone because they are good. If we are falling out, the responsibility is mutual and we should help the person (typically with the least power) move on to a better place – where they are highly valued, better paid, etc. And if we are so far down the road of conflict we can’t see the good anymore, we should back off and let someone else manage the relationship. I want to kiss goodbye (with relief as right now we are on a path to hating each other) and recover our friendship in due course. We both mismanaged our relationship. It is time for us to recover and make good.

2. I don’t want to work in a place where some pigs are more equal than others . . .

I’m a conventional HR-based psychologist. I do selection – you know those awful tests and reports telling you who you are. I can run up a comp-and-benefit scheme explaining who gets more money and why. I predict labor demand within organizations and match supply (to make sure we don’t suffer too much when you leave). I run the hello and goodbye programs. And I bollock anyone who gets into a disciplinary scenario because of the paper work they make for us all.

But I don’t want to work in a place where one person is more important than anyone else.

Everyone is important otherwise why did we hire them? Floors are not cleaned as a luxury. Clean floors are essential to the smooth running of our business, etc. etc.

I hate the idea that we look after the top 10% of people.  Why do I select people, then, I hear you say? Because we have the technology to identify the matches that will never work – the extreme cases. Let’s make ourselves useful, folks. I am also happy when my deli refuses to sell me something because what I intend to do with their food is just plain horrible. There is nothing wrong with someone who knows, leaning over to someone who doesn’t, and saying, if you want to achieve X, do it like Y.  What a wonderful expression of goodwill. I am saved disappointment and I feel great that someone cared enough to tell me.

3. Can organizations be egalitarian? Don’t we need leaders?

I discovered Barbara Sliter’s blog Creatorship – courtesy of Galba Bright. Thank you so much.

I have stopped believing in leadership. I believe we thrust up people to represent us. It is a dynamic process, as we are seeing the States right now. The answer is not given, and the person who most respects the dynamic will win, by definition.

On a daily basis, in my conventional role as a work psychologist, leadership is shared. I deliver data, collected professionally and organized to inform action in the circumstances we are in. Our understanding of the situation evolves during discussions, as mine does. And “leadership” shifts with the part of the situation we are considering. The “leader”, be it the senior line manager present, or any one else, leads by representing our collective and considered view to us and to others.

Sometimes the senior line person is so much more experienced than the rest of us, they add an overview we all recognize immediately as bringing us together. Mostly, they are sufficiently experienced, in our line of work and in leadership roles (they probably started practicing at pre-school!) and recognize when we are reaching agreement which they sum up effectively so that we can move forward with full confidence in each other.

Often, they find the group view is very much at odds with their own, but they represent our view effectively anyway. They value their people. We are on the team for a reason. Together we will make good decisions. We won’t always be right. And sometimes we will be right, but won’t win.

But we will put our best foot forward! They know that.

Barbara Sliter puts this so much better than I do. People who haven’t had the privilege of working in professional, collegial settings are ready. Ready to co-create meaning at work.

What I can do, is add the stories and the robust HR technologies for the pay systems, etc. I’ve seen places where the “least senior” person chairs the meeting. It works. And why not? They will be the least opinionated after all!

4. Recessions offer opportunity too.

Go back to Zimbabwe I hear you say. Maybe I will. I haven’t heard that for a while – at least 6 months. I must be keeping good company.

What counts in life is finding opportunity in what looks like a negative space. A 3% downturn is not trouble, believe me! But it is disconcerting. The firms that sit down, and openly talk about what is opening up for them, will thrive.

To refer to the American elections again, I deliberately engaged with Obama-skeptics to find out their objections. They don’t want universal health insurance, presumably because it may cost them a little. My scampering mind screams OPPORTUNITY! Where is Melissa Clark-Reynolds? I don’t know if you are Kiwi, Alex, but Richard will know whom I mean.

Whomever asks the best questions under frustration wins! I’ve also just found Galba Bright’s blog. He has posted today a great heuristic for managing meetings and particularly tricky meetings. I am going to look at that more closely today.

Thanks, Alex. I liked your post. It is closer to the egalitarian world I like (provided I am in charge of course!). I like working with knowledge workers. And BTW, Gen Y really get this. I had a conversation late last night with a colleague’s son who had been deputed by his father to help me with a website. At one point the young man said to me: tell me a little more about your skill set so I know what you will be contributing. Yep, indeed. They hold their own!

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Can we manage without managers?

Quotations from Gary Hamel’s The Future of Management.

“My guess is that the most bruising skirmishes in the new millennium won’t be fought
along the battle lines that separate one competitor, ecosystem or economic bloc from
another. Rather, they will be fought along the lines that separate those who seek to
defend the prerogatives, power and prestige of their bureaucratic caste from those who
hope to build less structured, less tightly managed organizations that elicit and merit
the very best that human beings have to give.”

“Not surprisingly, most managers believe you can’t manage without managers. This is
the mother of all management orthodoxies”

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