Saturday, July 13, 2013
Love and Competence - Ruminations
Barry, My Liege :
It appears that our human species may be approaching our limits to accomplish common goals by creating organizations to complete tasks.
For example, we fail in many countries to manage nuclear power. Regardless of whether we simply do not have the capacity as a species to manage atomic power, it is clear that we fail to manage that power generation activity to our long-term benefit.
Here is a link to a story about radiation at Fukushima : http://www.nationofchange.org/fukushima-spiking-1373728437
Witness global warming. It is no longer debated. Mayors are building seawalls to hold back the rising seas.
The latest example of organizational failure is the San Francisco Bay Bridge construction where simple engineering precautions were lost or ignored to the point that the structure may be unsafe.
On reflection, one question is simply this: is this a trend or only isolated examples?
If there is a trend, then we ask: What is going on?
Over the last 50 years I have been privileged to observe and participate in many organizations both large and small.
I have seen a constant in all organizations. It is this: organizations are effective in accomplishing their goals only when ALL the members of the organization understand how the goals interact with each member's daily routine and when ALL members share the goal and are happy to modify their behavior in order to help reach those goals.
No matter how well the organization is designed in the beginning, there are countless daily circumstances which were not factored into the original design and which can cripple the organization if not addressed correctly.
Those organizations which succeed always enlist the enthusiasm and talents of the people in the organization toward achieving its goals by reacting to daily events.
Call it what you will, but the success factor is found in the common agreement of purpose in all participants.
I think we can call it Love.
It is reasonably easy to create that love or spirit in an organization. It requires a few basics of management. Leaders must create the perception that they respect the workers and will not take advantage of them. Managers must communicate the organization's goals clearly to all workers. Workers should be hired who are overqualified and then paid wages commensurate with their qualifications.
Today it is becoming more difficult to create that spirit in an organization. Economic theory proposes that workers should be paid the market minimum wage for that position. Yet, companies which pay more as above routinely out perform competitors which pay the minimum.
It appears that the material wants of the leaders drive many organizations toward ineffectiveness by alienating organizations' subordinate members.
That alone is a prescription for organizational failure. But when that greed is combined with complex technologies which are understood by only a few members of the organization, none of whom are in leadership positions, it becomes surprising when any organization actually accomplishes any concrete action.
Some misguided folks may use that idea of organizational spirit to denigrate unions since unions can bring a confrontational atmosphere to an organization; but in my experience those organizations which are effective can also work with unions and union members.
When we look at the pre-technological past, we see examples of brute force organizations which actually accomplished some tasks. Building the Suez Canal or the United States Transcontinental Railway come to mind.
But, My Liege, those days are over. In a world of Twitter and Google, one cannot force any group of people to do anything. Even less than before will people today bear routine cruelty just to make some tyrant richer.
A new day is dawning, My Liege; it is a day where love will rule.
Your faithful servant,