The way we work and organize work is not suitable for the complex tasks we face today. Combined with the pace of change we experience, we need a new approach to work. In a series of posts, I will look at what the problem with our current system is, what the foundation for a new approach can be and how such an approach can be implemented. This post starts with taking a closer look of how we organize work today and why this is problematic. It also provides an general idea for a new way of working and organizing work.
The way we work makes us sick
The following text explains the ideas mentioned in the video above more in detail.
How is work organized?
Nowadays, we manage work with top-down orders in hierarchical structures, where the organizational distance is so huge that the people at the top do not know what the ones at the bottom are doing. We try to motivate people with monetary incentives and fear them with sanctions or even the loss of their jobs in case of non-obedience, which is also known as the carrot and stick method. Work is organized according to the principle of division of labor, where one person only does one small aspect of the value creating process instead of doing everything on their own.
This has led to losing the social connectedness, which is so important for us social beings. We do not have personal relationships with the people we do business with or even our own colleagues. We do not know why we work or who is benefiting from it anymore. The only maxim of doing business today is to make more money, all too often at the cost of basic human needs or rights.
The sobering result
The result is that 85 % of the workforce in Europe is not engaged with what they are doing on a daily basis. Mental diseases related to stress, for example burnouts, are increasing rapidly. The natural resources of our planet are being exploited and people are treated like commodities.
All because we use management techniques and organizational designs that are from an industrial time and which focus mainly on increasing efficiency or profits.
Of course, organizations need to be profitable to sustain their business activities, but the challenges we face today can’t be solved solely with efficiency.
A new Age
That is because we are not in an industrial time anymore. We are in the Information Economy, where in Europe the most jobs and profits are created in service and knowledge related jobs. The problems we face are not standardized and the solutions to it are neither straightforward nor predefined. What leads to success in this new time is creativity, collaboration and problem solving skills.
In the Information Economy organizations are more and more dependent on the creative input of their employees to solve the complexity and fast pace of today’s world. Some organizations find it already difficult to attract the talent they need. The war of talent has begun. If we want to solve the world’s most pressing problems we need to join forces. That, however, cannot be achieved with outdated management techniques or organizational designs.
A new approach to work
What is required is a whole new approach to work and organizing work; an approach that is more closely to our human nature; an approach that emphasizes empathy and compassion towards other human beings, allowing us to realize the purpose and meaning of our daily work. What we need is organizations that put the human into the center of all business activities.
It is our individual responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world, but we are also dependent and influenced by the environment we engage with. This is especially true for our work environment where we spent more than half of our waking time. Therefore, it is the responsibility of organizations to create supportive environments that bring out our full natural potential.
In that way not only the individual well-being will be improved, but also the long-term sustainable growth of the organization is ensured.
Ironically, by putting people first, the profitability increases even more compared to traditional methods. That is because when we treat people respectfully, they are more likely to do a good job, feel more engaged and bring in their own ideas compared to when they are yelled at all the time. Similarly, customers are more likely to buy products that are of value and bring no harm to them or the environment. And by realizing the human in our supply chain, we can simply not justify outsourcing our production to developing countries where child labor is present, even if that could reduce wage costs.
By focusing on the principles for social sustainability, which are defined as people having no structural barriers to health, influence, competence, impartiality or meaning making, the way we work can become human.
How satisfied are you with your work situation?