Sunday, April 15, 2007

Radical organizations 1

1. When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work. From here.

I grew up in a working class/farmer family whose attitude toward leaders was that they were the folks who didn't know how to do the actual work and made life miserable for those who did.

Now I'm quite sure the leaders of the factories that my people worked in didn't get up in the morning and say, "Now how can I make life miserable for the workers today."

No, the factory managers woke up knowing that it was their job to think and to make decisions and be responsible for the whole shebang while it was the role of my people to carry out the decisions. And then my people would come home and tell stories about the stupid decisions the bosses were making.

Radical organizations begin with the assumption that everyone has the ability to reason, everyone has the abilitiy to make decisions and people love to take responsibility for their actions.

The role of leaders and managers of thriving organizations is to create as many opportunities for people to
think, make decsions, and to be responsible for the results of their actions.

Before Bakke co-founded AES he worked for the US Energy Department, an experience that led him to hate staff positions. Staff people were supposed to do the thinking for the line people. In AES they tried to get by on as few staff people as possible and instead created task forces of workers who did the work ordinarily done by staff people.

One day Bakke's wife was at an AES recognition dinner when they asked everyone who had worked on the budgeting task force to stand up and be acknowledged. A man sitting near her stood up with the others who had been working on the task force.

When he sat down she asked him what his position was with the company. "Security guard," he said.

Now I can guarantee you that the working class people I grew up with would have loved to work for such a company.

My father has an 8th grade education. He would never have been given major thinking and decision-making responsibility in most organizations and yet he designed and oversaw the construction of one of the most advanced dairy barns in Minnesota in the early 1960s.

Are you giving everyone in your nonprofit the ability to think, make decisions, and experience the joy of being responsible?

People love working for radical organizations that give them the opportunity to be at their best.