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That word again — Mavericks (Argh)

” Organizations are ill prepared for the arrival of a new breed of uncompromising consumer and maverick employee…If organizations do not keep pace, they will cease to exist.”  — Gary Hamel

Yesterday I concentrated on the first part of Hamel’s equation — uncompromising consumers. Today I want to visit his second but equally important factor — the maverick employee.

Why are organizations facing this growing challenge? I believe there are at least three important causes.

1. the end of the industrial age
2. loyalty doesn’t pay
3. we are all connected

I’ll take a look at the first cause in today’s blog:

Most historians agree that the Industrial Age started in the late 18th century. As the scientific advances of the Renaissance met with the economic theories of Adam Smith and the democratic revolution was made real in the United States, the conditions were set.

Businesses found new ways to compete. Freed from the limits of monarchical governments and religious influences of previous generations, new competitive businesses formed anywhere plentiful natural resources found populations willing to trade their desperate existence for the security of machine-like jobs. Soon, educational systems and societal norms changed to create cultures supportive of the new technological advances. A new human paradigm emerged.

The successes of these times is well chronicled. By the end of the 20th century, the industrial age found perhaps its ultimate expression. Efficiency and productivity advances lead to the creating of ever-more-segmented and analyzed processes. Those organizations too ‘fat’ and unproductive failed to keep pace. Eventually, they ‘failed to exist.’

In a few short decades, efficiency and productivity tools became commodities. Today, they are simply the cost of doing business. Like the ante in a poker game, they only get you in the game. You still have to play the hand. Organizations are again forced to find new ways to compete.

The humans still necessary to ‘do the work’ are less and less interested in playing the role of machines. Having moved up Maslow‘s triangle, they are unsatisfied and unfulfilled with their roles as machine parts. Baby boomers are leaving the workplace and taking their domain knowledge with them. And the ‘Millennials‘ who replace them will not play by the same rules.

While the current financial crisis may cause organizational leaders to feel more confident that their workforces will be frightened into submission, I’m afraid they will not be happy with the long term results. These leaders would do well to remember the old adage: be careful what you wish for.

Because workforces ‘treated in the manner’ and who stay with the company will be increasingly unfulfilled and unhappy. They will give the least amount of effort and do the least amount of work necessary to keep their job. They will be unlikely to think through challenges on behalf of the company or the customer. They will not take risks. They will not solve complex problems. The dysfunctional play of internal politics will only grow more stifling over time.

Clearly, such work forces are hardly the builders of the competitive brands and innovative cultures necessary to compete in the 21st century.

More tomorrow…

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