Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How To Change Our Failing Businesses

Every day we hear about change: change on Wall Street, change in Iraq, change in Palestine, change in the car industry, and change in health care...Whether we speak of a country, a company, or an organization, how does successful, long-lasting change occur?

Ricardo Semler (CEO of Semco) put it this way, "How do you get a sizable organization to change without telling it--or even asking it--to change? It's actually easy--but only if you're willing to give up control. People, I've found, will act in their best interests, and by extension in their organization's best interests, if they're given complete freedom. It's only when you rein them in, when you tell them what to do and how to think, that they become inflexible, bureaucratic, and stagnant. Forcing change is the surest way to frustrate change." (harvardbusinessonline article)

What a completely counter intuitive statement. If we want a country, a company, or an organization to change, we give back, to the people, the power and control to change themselves; then, we get out of the way. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. So long as people feel that they have control, there is nothing to rebel against, and they act in their best interests and their organization's best interest.

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How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.