Redefining the Workplace
During the 90’s, due to the expansion and access to information through computerization and the advent of the internet, a new way of conducting business began to emerge. Many industries adapted to this new reality and many remain still searching for a path forward. Here, I'm referring to the movement away from the industrial economy towards what we now call the knowledge economy.
The industrial economy spawned organizations which enshrined power, order, predictability and control as their foundational framework. These organizations are efficient and organized to meet the demands of a mass production economy. They are structured to ensure that job security is tied to obedience, jobs are organized into segmented hierarchies or silos, tasks are made simple and are reproduced with maximum repetition, remuneration is made according to the type of job one has and workers are an extension of machines. The difficulty is that they are also rigid, slow to change and not flexible enough to meet the demands of today's fast paced business environment. Governments, military, large corporations, religions, schools, and unions were and are designed this way.
The emerging information economy is birthing organizations based on shared power, flexibility, creativity and flow. They are designed to empower employees, encourage creativity and seek constant improvement. Organizational control comes through an adherence to a common vision, a set of values and corporate goals. The model looks messy from the outside looking in, but it does have structure and form, albeit flexible and fluid. Long term job security and company loyalty are not as prevalent as they used to be in the industrial economy.
In the industrial economy structures, the individual finds him/herself inside the management structure. Individuals are told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Teams are driven by management. In the Information economy, the management structure is inside the individual. In this model individuals become self-managers, self-leaders and teams grow in independence and are interdependently linked to one another. Power, order and control, are found in an alignment with a common vision, a set of common values and shared goals. People are engaged, creative and flexible.
During the transition period, as organizations transform from one organizational structure to the other, individuals move from the dependence upon the organization found in a highly visible pyramid, to more independence within a constantly changing and fluid organization; and, end at a place where the pyramid is in the shadow.
Work has been with us for untold centuries, but it was only in the turn of the 20th Century that the study of work and how it is organized began in earnest. Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915) was the first person to approach work scientifically, and many of the gains made in productivity over the years are traced back to his theories of ‘scientific management’.
The basis for Taylor’s theories was embedded in the way work was done during his day. During his time the economy was driven by the industrial complex typified by the assembly line. However most people today find work in what Dan Stamp, the former Chairman and founder of Priority Management International and Dr. Peter Honey, a world renowned Industrial Psychologist, have called “The Invisible Assembly Line.” The Invisible assembly line is comprised of knowledge workers, deals with ideas and information, and centred around people rather than solely around the production of material goods. It is estimated that over eighty per cent of present day workers are now classified as knowledge workers and primarily found in the service sector.
Dan Stamp and Peter Honey recognized the significant contribution that Taylor made to the understanding of work but wondered how it applied to today’s knowledge workers. After extensive research into the behaviours of knowledge workers they began to piece together a “productivity platform’ for knowledge workers based on a decide, do and deliver model, underpinned by learning and determined by eight distinct processes which make up The Invisible Assembly Line.
The first stage of The Invisible Assembly Line which sets a strategic direction identifies those processes which: 1) define purpose and 2) establish goals ; the second stage relates to executing the plan identifies those processes which: 3) focus resources with flexibility, 4) manage priorities, and 5) measure effects; and, the third and final stage which is about exceeding expectations identifies the processes which enable people to: 6) take ownership, responsibility and accountability, 7) influence others while maintaining interpersonal relationship, and 8) continue improving people, processes and productivity.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
Your work assembly line may be invisible but the results can be seen. Dan Stamp
Gratitude in the Workplace
My parents always told me to be grateful for my blessings; no doubt your parents did as well. Learning to express gratitude was reinforced from my early years in grade school through to the end of my formal education at university. We were always encouraged to say a simple thank you and mean it.
We may have lost something in our society today as I think people show a greater sense of entitlement rather than a sense of gratitude for what they have and what others have helped them achieve. This is expressed in many ways: the disrespect shown towards co-workers, managers, and employers in our places of work; a lack of courtesy from drivers on our roadways and those who line-up at the grocery store; the cashier who utters the familiar deadpan "next"; and, the absence of a simple thank you when a good deed is done for another.
Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus meaning grateful and its first known use as an English derivative was in 1523. It expresses a feeling of appreciation, gratefulness or thankfulness. It has meaning for the giver when it is genuinely expressed and for the receiver when it is graciously accepted. Gratitude engenders a deep feeling of thankful appreciation for the goodness within us and others. In many ways it goes beyond the self to form a special bond with those we encounter, nature that surrounds us, and, a higher Spiritual Source that cuts through to our core.
Ancient wisdom people, philosophers, religious leaders and spiritual writers tell us that gratitude is the basis for strengthening our relationship with God and with one another, as well as, improving our own well being. Intuitively they knew this and speak eloquently about it. These days, however, we are caught up with "evidenced based" learning and "scientific findings" to support what appeared to be naturally known. With that in mind here are few of the scientific findings about gratitude from a business perspective.
I have found that grateful employees are also better employees. A growing body of Research shows that employees who express gratitude have greater attention, determination, enthusiasm, energy and are better able to deal with burnout. Others point out that employees who are encouraged with a sense of gratitude are more satisfied.
With all this positive affirmation about gratefulness in the workplace one would think that expressing a thank you would be commonplace. Wrong! According to a study conducted in the United States under the auspices of the John Templeton Foundation and reported by Janice Kaplan, workplace comes in dead last among the places to express gratitude. The study also found that 74 percent of the people surveyed never or rarely expressed gratitude to their boss. But they are eager to have a boss who expresses gratitude to them. 70 percent would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful and 81 percent would work harder.
A more recent study (still currently underway) is finding that organizations which show the highest level of gratitude are those providing community services - significantly greater than business, health care providers and government agencies (the latter two had the lowest scores). It also points out that employees are less likely to feel a sense of gratitude than those holding higher positions within the organization.
Feelings of gratitude and appreciation are strengthened when employees feel valued. Consider these suggestions to improve a culture of gratitude:
So now we have a growing body of research that tell us what we have always been taught: Being grateful pays big dividends for our well being both in and out of the workplace.
I end this post by going back to the beginning with my parents' words of wisdom, and what I hope every father and mother tells their child: "Give thanks for your blessings."
Sources: Harvard Health Publications In Praise of Gratitude; Harvard Business Review: Foster a Culture of Gratitude; Mark Goulston: How to Give Meaningful Thank You; Amit Amin: 31 Benefits of Gratitude ; Victor Lipman, Why is Lack of Employee Recognition A Chronic Problem
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC. From the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions
Finding Meaning in Your Work
How do we find a sense of purpose and link it with our work?
Sometimes we're unhappy because we don't have a full appreciation of our own sense of purpose and how it connects with our work. When we learn to connect our work (what we do) with our purpose (why we do it) then passion, excitement and joy usually follow. That's when people say "I really enjoy what I do."
Successful businesses spend a great deal of time defining and branding their purpose. They do this because the brain trust of the company knows that a meaningful purpose and branding strategy is a uniting force both for employees and customers.
Successful people also clarify their own sense of purpose. I know a CEO who says his purpose is "to remove barriers, find opportunities and do this while respecting the dignity of others." According to an article in Fast Company: Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company says that her personal mission is "To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference." Joel Manby, CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment says "I define personal success as being consistent to my own personal mission statement: to love God and love others." Oprah Winfrey's purpose is "to be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be."
Notice that the purpose statements are action and other oriented; and, they link our tangible reality with our intangible qualities. The focus on "others" tied to the intangible and often spiritual qualities are what make them meaningful. Notice also that the purpose statements are not the same. We all have unique gifts to offer others.
Many people spend hours searching for a work but haven't spent any time clarifying their purpose.
When employees don't connect a personal sense of purpose with work they are often unhappy, prone to complaining and disengaged. The ultimate outcome is apathy.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed a lot of apathetic individuals within organizations. There are many factors that lead to apathy, for instance, it may be a result of poor leadership and management. On the other hand it may not. It may be a result of employees not finding real meaning in their work, or not taking the time to sort out their own purpose and how it relates to their work. In this latter case apathy results from a disconnect between what matters to the person and what they're asked to do.
If an employee is disengaged and apathetic, managers are presented with an opportunity for some career coaching. Often managers respond to disengaged and apathetic employees by "Joe is not performing so let's get rid of him." There is another way of handling the situation. The manager can work with the individual to find a personal sense of purpose and then give him the opportunity to find a fit within the company (if there is one); or, help him come to his own conclusion that there isn't a fit, and he needs to find another workplace where he can better apply his skills and talents. My experience suggests that when individuals leave an organization where they received career coaching, they become ambassadors for that organization.
Sometimes people find passion within their work after they are involved in it for some time. Initially they may see their work just as a job then something clicks - they find a home, their inner yearning for their own purpose becomes known - they find their passion. Jim was like this, for years he idled along in his work. He wasn't fired up about what he did. Then one day as he was toiling away at delivering water, something clicked. He connected water delivery with a higher purpose. He connected water with health and linked his job with helping others live healthier lives. His work no longer was a drudgery. Sure, he didn't like delivering water on cold or stormy days, but he did it because he knew he was helping someone. He had a higher purpose. He also became engaged in finding more efficient ways to deliver water, his demeanour changed from one who scowled most of the time to one who smiled most of the time. He became the "go to guy" when other "delivery boys" required support or clarification. Jim found meaning for himself and in his work and became passionate about it.
You may be someone who isn't finding meaning in your work. If you are in this situation it's time to make some adjustments. Perhaps your work conflicts with your values, or the organization is in a process of change and is moving in a direction with which you are not comfortable. The question you need to ask is "do I want to be stuck in this situation for the rest of my life?" Does "what I do" connect with "why I do it?" If the answer is no, then it's time to act. It is better, and healthier, to find work that has meaning for you than to stay in a job that has little meaning or where you no longer find joy or satisfaction. This suggests taking a risk, leaving and landing back on your feet with purpose - you will be better for it.
How to write a personal purpose statement.
Find work where your personal purpose statement and values fit like a glove. For example I know a nurse who is passionate about caring for others with absolute respect and love. She applies her passion with every patient under her care.
I'm not trying to paint a picture of a Pollyanna type of existence. One where no personal or organizational obstacles are in the way. You will always be challenged, even when you commit to a meaningful and profound personal purpose. In fact you may be more challenged because you have purpose. Your sense of purpose, however, will reinforce your resolve, help you keep focus, and energize you to overcome those challenges. It is best to recognize that you will never be completely fulfilled because all of us are on the road of life that continues to unfold before us.
You may already by living your work life passion. If you are, be thankful. If not, what changes do you need to make?
"Whatever you decide to do, do it with passion and all of the energy that you have." Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
From: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC, the Archives of FontanieLearningSolutions