How effective is it to operate in a bureaucratic workplace governed by hierarchical managers whose ideas are the only ones employees execute? If you ask professor and author Gary Hamel, he’d tell you that such a situation “imprisons the human capability in a jailhouse rule procedure, a lot of which doesn’t add much value.”
In order to resolve this issue, we first have to recognize that there is an issue, and after speaking with Hamel you can be sure this is a real problem.
But just like any revolution, it isn’t sparked until the masses have voiced their aggravation. And if we can use data to show a quantifiable impact on productivity, you can really begin to sound the alarm and bring attention to it. The first thing that must be done is to count the cost that the inertia of workplace politics has on many internal KPIs: productivity, bottom-line revenue, employee turnover rate, employee satisfaction, etc.
Hamel says we’ve seen these types of workforce shifts in the past. Companies — especially smog-congested, waste-producing factories during the Industrial Revolution — often didn’t care about the environmental damage they were leaving behind after a work day. It was all about how many products they could crank out. Yet now they have to take into account those costs and report on them.
Businesses impact the environment in a number of ways: greenhouse gas emissions, power usage, the materials that buildings are made of, paper consumption, even the total number of commuters who pollute the air with their cars. When we weren’t able to measure the amount of pollution, it wasn’t an issue that was going to get solved simply because there wasn’t a diagnosis of where the problem was originating. But once we were able to measure a baseline we could benchmark and assess where the problem is and how to fix it.
So if we can pinpoint and tackle businesses’ impact on environmental health, a company’s bureaucracy can also be alleviated.
Hamel says that across the board, only 13 percent of employees are truly engaged at work. It’s because we aren’t allowing for human imagination since we are holding our employees in a box to which they must conform. They are given a task and are expected to complete it in a certain manner, in a certain timeframe, and without their creative influence.
Innovation fuels technology companies and truly makes the sky the limit. That’s why Mo Gawdat, former chief business officer at Google X, said in his session that science fiction is now science fact. Technological ideas that used to be only in the movies, from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Star Wars” to “iRobot,” have developed into our reality. Why? Because we aren’t limiting ourselves in what we can invent. So why do it to the success of our companies and limit our workers? This is Hamel’s vision.
So what is the solution? Humanocracy. It’s the way to maximize humans’ capabilities. Hamel argues for people to govern their own success through a 10-step model:
- Everyone acts like an owner.
- There are few, if any, layers.
- Leaders are chosen by the led.
- There are no internal monopolies.
- Control comes from “around,” not “above.”
- Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
- Coordination is the product of collaboration.
- Decisions reflect the wisdom of the crowd.
- Compensation decisions are peer-based.
- Everyone reports to the customer.
With bureaucracy, you have standardization, conformance and predictability; with humanocracy, experimentation flourishes, ownership is increased, openness thrives and freedom is produced. When your employees feel free to create and try new things, that’s when results are generated.
Deloitte’s “The Rise of the Social Enterprise” report says 86 percent of millennials believe that a company’s success should not be measured on only its financial performance; factors regarding how a company manages its employees are of a higher caliber than most anything else.
In that same report, 52 percent of people said they trust that businesses will do what’s right for the organization’s social changes — which is quite low, yet higher than people’s trust in the U.S. government (33 percent).
This is why there must be a shift from business models with a top-down mentality to one that is more distributed. The reason is due in large to the connectivity we all experience online. We have more information at our fingertips on the health of a company and the usability of its products. As consumers, we are all critics in what works, what doesn’t, and what we like and don’t like about a company. These facets have governing power over large establishments. If a company sees that its consumers aren’t happy about a service it provides, and this impacts its bottom line, change occurs.
This same thinking can and should be applied to the internal employees of a company. There is power in numbers, and if it benefits the future success of that organization, why not give your employees the opportunity to self-govern?
This all starts with the employees you hire. Rachel Botsman, an author and lecturer at the University of Oxford, says integrity is at the heart of trustworthiness. If you hire those who embody integrity, implementing Hamel’s humanocracy will provide extreme returns.
Bureaucracy “shackles people with rules that prevent them from doing the best thing for the organization, the best thing for customers, the best thing for themselves,” Hamel says.
At UNLEASH, you expect to see technology platforms to solve a problem. The future of work does involve tech, as it enhances how we perform and helps us operate more efficiently. But there must be a focus on the people, and that was the purpose of UNLEASH Las Vegas this year. If you put emphasis on your people, you will yield success in everything you do.