Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Problem.

Imagine for a moment that you step back in time and are a hunter and a gatherer of food. Each day you go out with a bow and arrow, wait patiently, make a kill and provide for your family. As generations pass, the agricultural age comes up and you have a neighbour who is into farming. You instantly notice that his produce is almost 50 times more than what you can do as a hunter and gatherer. Now, if he persuaded you to become a “farmer”, what would your response be? You would see him go out to the field, scratch the soil, plant some seeds, watering the soil, removing weeds and so on, but you see no output immediately (unlike hunting). But eventually, you take notice of his yield, fifty times greater than yours. What would you do? You would likely say to yourself “ Even if wanted to become one, I just don't have the required skill sets. ” Now your farmer neighbour is making a lot of money and sending his kids to school to give them bigger opportunities. Little by little, you go through the intense learning process of becoming a farmer. You raise your children and grandchildren to be farmers. This is what happened in our earlier generations. This procedure led to the downsizing of hunters and gatherers by 90 % ; they lost their jobs. Several years pass, and then comes the industrial age. People build factories and learn specialization, delegation and scalability. They learn how to take raw materials through an assembly line with very high levels of efficiency. The productivity of the industrial age goes up fifty times over the family farm. Now if you were a farmer who was out producing hunters by fifty times and all of a sudden you find factories out producing you by 100 times. What would you say? You might be jealous, even threatened. So, now to be a player here, you would need a new skill set. The fact remains that industrialization downsized 90% of the farmers. Today, in a developed country like the United States, only 3% of the people are farmers, and they provide food for almost the entire nation and too by using industrial techniques or maintaining an industrialized farm.

So from the hunter & Gatherer age we moved onto being Farmer's and from there we moved onto industrialization, but Now we enter a new era.. The era of the Knowledge worker age. This age will out produce the industrial age by 50 times if not more! We're just beginning to see tip of the ice berg of this change. Nathan Myhrvold, Former Ceo at Microsoft, puts it this way : “The top software developers are more productive than the average software developer not by a factor of 10X or 100X or even 1000X, but by 10,000X”.

Quality Knowledge work is so valuable that unleashing its potential offer's organizations an extra ordinary opportunity for value creation. Covey believes that in the near future The knowledge worker Age will eventually bring about downsizing of up to 90 percent of the industrial Age work force. The current out sourcing and unemployment trends in the states are just the tip of the ice berg. The economy is dramatically shifting to the Knowledge worker age. Do you think today's work force is going to feel threatened by the new mind set, the new skill set and the new tool set of this Age? Imagine what it will take for you to be a player in this era. Imagine what it will require for your organization!

The great Peter Drucker compares the industrial - Manual worker age with Today's Knowledge worker age in this way :

The most important, and indeed truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty fold increase in the productivity of the MANUAL WORKER in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of “Knowledge work” and the “Knowledge worker”.The most valuable assets of the 20th century was the production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st century institution whether business or non business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.

The great historian Arnold Toynbee said that you could pretty well summarize the history of society and institutions in it in four words : “Nothing fails like success.” In other words , when you have a challenge and the response is equal to that challenge , you have success. But , once you have a new challenge, the old once - successful response no longer works. That's why it’s called failure.

We live in a “Knowledge worker” Age but operate our organizations in a controlling industrial age model that suppresses the release of human potential. Voice is essentially irrelevant. The “thing” mind set of industrial age that still dominates today's workplace will simply not work in the Knowledge worker age and new economy. And the unfortunate fact is .. That people have taken this same controlling mind - set home. So often it dominates the way we communicate with our friends and family.

The thing mind set of the industrial Age : The main assets and the primary driver's of economic prosperity in the industrial age were machines and capital - Things. People were necessary but always replaceable. They could be controlled through little consequence. There was always an excess supply of man power. You could always get more able bodies to comply with strict procedures. When all you want is a person's body and you don't really want their mind, heart and spirit ( all inhibitor's to the free flowing processes of the industrial age ) you have reduced a person to a thing. Many our management practices today spring from the industrial age. It gave us the belief that you have to control and manage people. It gave us our view of accounting, which makes people an expense and machine assets. If you know anything on accounts you would realize this. People are put on the P&L statement as an expense; equipment is put on the balance sheet as an investment or Asset.
It gave us our “carrot and stick” motivational philosophy. The great Jack ass technique that motivates in the front with a carrot (reward) and drives with a stick from the behind (fear and punishment).
Manager's today are still applying the industrial control model to Knowledge workers. Because, people in authority do not possess a complete, accurate understanding of human nature, they manage the work force like things. But this lack of understanding fails these manager's from tapping into the highest potentials of the work force.
What happens when people are constantly treated like things? It insults and alienates them, depersonalizes work, and creates low trust, unionized and litigious cultures.

The downward spiral of co dependency -
What happens when you manage people like things? They stop believing that leadership can become a choice. Most people think of leadership as a position and there fore don't see themselves as leaders. Making personal leadership (influence) a choice is like having freedom to play the piano. It is a freedom that has to be earned - Only then can leader ship become a choice.
Until then, People think that only those in positions of Authority should decide what must be done. They have consented, perhaps unconsciously, to being controlled like a thing. They wait to be given an order by someone with a formal title before they can act. Consequently, they blame the formal leader when things go wrong and give him or her credit when things go well. And they are thanked for their “co- operation and support” in turn.

This widespread reluctance to take initiative , to act independently, only fuels formal leader's imperative to direct and manage their subordinates.
They believe they have to do this to get people to follow them. The more a manager control's , the more he/ she evokes behavior's that necessitate greater control or managing. The co dependent culture that results is eventually “institutionalized” to the point that no one takes responsibility. Over time, both leader's and followers confirm to their roles in an unconscious pact. They disempower themselves by believing that other's must change before their own circumstances must improve.

As you read this.. Aren't you feeling that the people who really need to be reading this aren't reading it?

That very thought from you reflects co dependency. If you look at this material through the weaknesses of another, you disempower yourself and empower their weakness to continue to suck initiative, energy and excitement from your life.

Before Going for further.. I want you to go to the site.. and select Max & Max from the films menu.

The setting for this short film is the workplace. But remember.. Every one has a work place. For students and teacher's its the school. For most of us, it our place of work or business organizations. For families, it is the Home. For other's it is in a community club, or a mosque , church or temple.
This isn't just about work, it is about human relationships and interactions with people united in a common purpose. Covey challenges each of us to translate the setting of this film into every other area of our life where we interact with others. World over, Many people resonate with this film both organizationally and personally.
Sit back and enjoy the film.

... Think about the film you just watched. Max, like most of us began his job with tremendous enthusiasm and fire. When he takes initiative to get and keep customer's his Boss Mr. Harold gets tough. Max is micro managed and controlled to the point where is spirit is broken, and he becomes shy and loses his vision of purpose, potential and freedom to choose. He's lost his voice. He swears never to take initiative again. He gradually becomes like Max the Dog, waiting for his next command. We might be tempted to blame Mr. Harold, but notice that his boss treats him pretty much the same way as he treats max. So, in Max's organization such insulting micro managing is endemic throughout the organization. The whole culture in the organization is that reactive codependency. No one is exercising leadership (initiative and influence) because everyone assumes leadership is a function of position.

Covey says that most organizations are filled with a similar set back. Even the best organizations he has worked with. The problems are only becoming more evident in the Knowledge worker age. These challenges generally fall into three categories :
1.Organizational 2. Relationship
3. Personal.

At the organizational level, a controlling management philosophy drives performance , communication, compensation ( or rewards), training and other core systems that suppress human talent and voice. As discussed earlier this springs from the “thing” mind set of the industrial age.

At the level of relationships , there is a fundamental lack of trust, and many lack the “skill and mind set” to work out differences in authentic, creative ways. A belief system based on “you tell me and I will act” takes over. And the upper management believe “I must say and they will act”. This is what covey means by “codependency”. Leadership is lost. The “codependency” is also compounded by the fact that so many people have been raised being compared to others at home and competing against others in school, in athletics and in the work place. These powerful influences cultivate a “scarcity mentality”, so that many people have a hard time being genuinely happy for success of others.

At the personal level all of these organizations are filled with bright , talented and creative people who are straightjacketed, uninspired and undervalued. They are often frustrated and don't believe they can change things.

The Power of a Paradigm -

“Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems, but because they cannot see their problems” - John Gardner. And Albert Einstein put the same thing like this : “ The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

The above statements underscore one of the most profound things covey has come to learn. If you want to make minor changes in your life, work on practices, behavior or attitude. But if you want to make significant , quantum improvement, work on “paradigms” ( pronounced para -- dime). The word paradigm stems from the greek work “paradiegma”, originally a scientific term but commonly used to mean assumption, perception, theory , frame of reference, or lens through which you view the world. Its like a map of a territory or a city. If inaccurate, it will make no difference how hard you try to find your destination. You will always be lost. If accurate, then diligence and attitude matter. But not until.

As an example to illustrate this covey makes use of the principle of blood letting that was used before germ theory came into awareness. What was the paradigm? There's bad stuff in your blood. Get it out and you'll be fine. Now, if you didn't question that paradigm what would you do? Go to a place where the facilities for blood letting were more comfortable? More painless? Can you imagine what happened when the “Germ theory” was discovered - when the pasteur of France, and other scientists discovered that germs are the primary cause of disease? It immediately explained why women wanted to be delivered by mid wives. The midwives were cleaner. They washed. It explained why more men on war's battle field were dying from staph infections than bullets. The disease was spread from behind the front ranks through germs. The germ theory opened whole new fields of research. It guides health practices to this day. That's the power of an accurate paradigm. It explains, and then guides. But false paradigm's like traditions, die hard. Flawed paradigm's go on for centuries before a new one takes over. For instance , though history books talk about george washington dying of a throat infection, he probably died of blood letting. The throat infection was a symptom of something else. Since the paradigm at that time was that of blood letting, they took from him several pints of blood. You and I are counseled not to give more than one pint every two months if we're well.

The new knowledge worker age is based on a new paradigm, one entirely different from the “thing” paradigm of the industrial age. Let's call it the “Whole person paradigm”.

The Whole Person Paradigm..

Refer fig 1 & fig 2.

At the core, there is one simple, over arching reason why so many people remain unsatisfied in their work and why most organizations fail to draw out talent and creativity of their people and in turn don't become truly great and enduring organizations.
It stems from an incomplete paradigm of who we are - our fundamental view of human nature.

Human beings are not “things” needing to be motivated and controlled; they are four dimensional - body, mind , heart and spirit.

All philosophy and religion, both western and eastern from the beginning of recorded history, have the four same dimensions : the physical (economic), the mental, the social and the spiritual. Different words are often used, but they reflect the same universal dimensions of life. They also represent the four basic needs and motivations of all people.
To live (survival), To love (relationships), To learn (growth and development) and to leave a legacy (meaning and contribution)..

People have choices ...

.. And this is why the controlling “thing” approach of the industrial age is no longer relevant. Managements failure to inspire their organizations people to put in their highest talent and contributions boil down to one simple truth. - People make choices. People decide how much of themselves they will give up to their work depending on how they are treated and on their opportunities to use all four parts of their nature.

These choices range from.. Rebelling to Creative excitement. These choices you would make under the following scenario's...

Refer fig 3.

Firstly, your not treated Kindly, not paid for the level of your contribution. Your work is mundane. And there is a lot of politics at play.. What would your choice be?

Second, Let's say your paid fairly well, but not treated Kindly. You are not respected. Your treatment is inconsistent.. Often depending on the mood of your boss.. What would your choice be?

Third, let's say you are paid fairly, treated kindly, but only when your opinion is wanted, it is given to you..
In other words, your body and heart are valued but... Your mind (creatively) is subdued..

Fourth, let's say you are paid well, treated kindly, and used creatively.. But you are asked to dig a hole and fill it again. Or just keep filling reports that no one sees or uses.. In other words your work is meaningless. Your spirit is affected. What would your choice be?

Fifth, let's say you are valued in mind, body , heart and spirit (meaningful work), but there is a lot of cheating going on in your company with respect to customers, suppliers and other workers.. What would your choice be?

Notice that we went through all four parts.. Mind, body, heart and spirit (spirit divided into two - meaningless work and unprincipled work)..the point here is if you neglect any of these four parts, you turn the human being into a “thing”, and what do you do with “things”? You have to control, manage and motivate them with the “carrot and stick” approach..

World over, organizations people fall in the last three categories, people would rebel or quit, maliciously obey (meaning they'll do it hoping it doesn't work), or at best willingly comply. In today's “Knowledge worker age”, only one who is respected as a whole person can commit to the upper three choices of cheerful cooperation, heartfelt commitment or creative excitement. He is paid fairly, treated Kindly, used creatively and given opportunities to serve human needs in principled ways.

Thus the core problems in our work places and the core solution to these problems lie in our flawed paradigm of human nature. And this is the same paradigm that we carry into other venues of our life. Be it home or a social club. This industrial Age “thing” and all the practices that flow from it are the modern equivalent of blood letting.

Okay , we’ve just covered the second chapter and we have another chapter to go before we begin work on the 8th habit. So , take your time , go through it and keep smiling.

best wishes.

No comments:

Post a Comment