William L. McKnight, chairman of 3M, in 1948(!):
As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.
Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.
Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.
Last week’s read was William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which I heartily recommend as it exposed to me several shortcomings in my own writing processes. This week, I’m reading through Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation, which is a work full of truths that, deep down, everyone knows but finds hard to accept.
The Myths of Innovation led me to track down and watch this YouTube video of a Google Tech Talk from Berkun, which in turn led to my discovery of the above quote.
Gary Hamel on managing what he terms the “Facebook generation” (I’m abridging the list to remove his explanations, so you would do well to read the whole article):
I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life. These are the post-bureaucratic realities that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or “past it.”
- All ideas compete on an equal footing.
- Contribution counts for more than credentials.
- Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
- Leaders serve rather than preside.
- Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
- Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
- Resources get attracted, not allocated.
- Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
- Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
- Users can veto most policy decisions.
- Intrinsic rewards matter most.
- Hackers are heroes.
These features of Web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation F—and mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average Fortune 500 company. Yeah, there are a lot of kids looking for jobs right now, but few of them will ever feel at home in cubicleland.
The generation gap between the Boomers and Generation Y/Me/F/whatever-you-want-to-call-them is going to be a big battleground in the business world over the next few years, if it hasn’t already begun. These are two groups with vastly different expectations of what it means to be part of something.
The first of two articles I’m about to link to from Gary Hamel’s Management 2.0 blog on WSJ—this one on management and workers’ potential:
Last year, a global survey of 90,000 employees by Towers Perrin revealed that only 21% of employees are highly engaged in their work. The other 79% may be physically on the job, but they’ve left their enthusiasm and ingenuity at home. This is a scandalous waste of human capability. It’s also a virtually bottomless reservoir of creative potential that has yet to be tapped.
DHH from 37signals:
…You have to start getting into the habit of saying no. No to things that just doesn’t fit, no to things that just aren’t the most important right now, and no to many things that simply don’t cut it.
It’s incredibly rare that I’ve actually regretted saying no, but I dread my yes’s to all the time (sic).
From time to time, even when a customer requests something, the proper answer is exactly that—to say “no.” Sometimes it’s just not part of the scope of a project, especially a project you want to remain simple and uncluttered. Sometimes, it’s a change that could work, but it’s just not the best decision. Sometimes, it’s a good thing for a few people, but not the right thing for the larger share of your customers. Listening to customers and talking to them is important, but they’re not infallible. Occasionally, part of the conversation has to be a rejection.
When making those connections, even more powerful and honest than just saying “no” is telling someone why you are saying “no”. Give them a reason. Be honest. Sometimes, they’ll try to argue with you or turn it into a debate, but that’s OK. It means they’re invested with you and with your company.
Above all, don’t promise people “we’re working on it” or “we’re thinking about it” when what you really need to say is “no”.
“Management often works to maintain the status quo, to deliver average products to average people. In a stable environment, this is exactly the right strategy. Build reliability and predictability, cut costs, and make a profit.
Traditional marketing, the marketing of push, understands this. The most stable thing to do is push a standard product to a standard audience and succeed with discounts or distribution.
But for tribes, average can mean mediocre…
The end result of this is that many people spend all day trying to defend what they do, trying to sell what they’ve always sold, and trying to prevent their organizations from being devoured by the forces of the new. It must be wearing them out. Defending mediocrity is exhausting.”–Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
“Managers manage by using the authority the factory gives them. You listen to your manager or you lose your job. A manager can’t make change because that’s not his job. His job is to complete tasks assigned to him by someone else in the factory.
Leaders, on the other hand, don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them.”—Seth Godin: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
“Managers manage a process they’ve seen before, and they react to the outside world, striving to make that process as fast and as cheap as possible.
Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in… leaders have followers. Managers have employees.
Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
Change? Change is frightening, and to many people who would be leaders, it seems more of a threat than a promise. That’s too bad, because the future belongs to our leaders, regardless of where they work or what they do.”–Seth Godin: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
“We live in a world where we have the leverage to make things happen, the desire to do work we believe in, and a marketplace that is begging us to be remarkable. And yet, in the middle of these changes, we still get stuck.
Stuck following archaic rules.
Stuck in industries that not only avoid change but actively fight it.
Stuck in fear of what our boss will say, stuck because we’re afraid we’ll get into trouble.
Most of all, we’re stuck acting like managers or employees, instead of like the leaders we could become. We’re embracing a factory instead of a tribe.”—Seth Godin: Tribes, We Need You to Lead Us
“A managed environment requires behavior from us that we accept as inevitable although, of course, it is really mandatory only because it is mandated. We call it ‘professionalism.’ . . .
“Managed businesses have taken our voices. We want to struggle against this. We wear a snarky expression behind our boss’s back, place ironic distance between our company and ourselves, and we don’t want to think we have become our parents. But we have. And we’ve done so willingly.”–David Weinberger