Dangerous Ideas: Or the Story of O*
Next month I have an opportunity to deliver a key-note at HR Exchange - hosted by People Potential in Malaysia and Singapore. As a thought starter I've drafted the following piece titled "Dangerous Ideas: Or the Story of O*".
What do you think? Comments & feedback welcome.
- Today's business organization (O) is the love child of the church and the military--conceived about 100 years ago, by people born in the18th Century. It's purpose was to turn farm laborers into robots for the emerging factories. It worked well.
- Little has changed. Training, planning, capital budgeting, brand management and many other disciplines of today's O are firmly rooted there.
- Over the past 100 years, the O attracted a priesthood (think Frederick Taylor, Elton Mayo, Tom Peters), and built new seminaries (Harvard, Wharton, Yale, etc.). Few of the priests were scientific; several were frauds. Their weekly devotional readings (Fortune, WSJ, Business Week) featured the exploits and home-spun advice of favorite sons, almost all American (Watson, Welch, Lay).
- Today, the O appears to be sick. Several 'most admired' Os have turned to ashes (Enron, Lehman Brothers). Several need government support to survive (GM, Citibank). Long live the free market!
- Worse, there is an apparent crisis of leadership--to judge from the obscene levels of money on offer to attract 'leaders'. Which leads to the suspicion that the purpose of many companies is simply to pay these dramatic multiples to a select few.
- To achieve the necessary support from employees, Os retain consultants to improve 'engagement'. This is difficult, seeing the O doesn't cut it for today's talented (your children and mine?), who don't like the work, or the control. They distrust the church's edicts: they want to 'have a life'.
- There is a huge Opportunity for organizations which are both good for people and good for business.
- The internet is not only a catalyst in this process, it is also an amazing example of what we are talking about. How come it is so successful---without a CEO? And how come it looks nothing like the military or the church?
- What will Os look like 10 years, 100 years from now? MOs*, ROWEs*, NOs* and SO* offer clues. They say we can craft innovative, leader-full and resilient communities--the Os of the future.
O = The business organization
MOs = Motivations
ROWEs = Results Only Work Environments
NOs = Networked Organizations
SO = Self-organization
by Ken Everett