Our working lives involve such a simple idea.
We can all be better, we can all do better.
Terms such as – performance review, skill set growth, competencies interview – are all about ‘fixing’ something. Us.
This deep down assumption is a tricky thing for any business, group, or team sincerely trying to change to a more modern, less machine-like way of working.
Supporting rather than managing, trusting, encouraging networks and autonomy, concentrating on impact rather than process, is surely the sort of environment most of us would choose.
It is happening. Open minded charities, community based businesses, some areas of health care and education, innovation teams within established commercial businesses are all experimenting with new, humanising ways of lifting everyone through self-organisation rather than command and control structures. There are some great success stories.
But not everywhere.
And interestingly, the default analysis in these cases is that the teams, the people involved, need ‘fixing’ first.
That may not be right.
Is the answer to be found in comparing a business to a nation state?
Professor of politics Andreas Wimmer has just published a book called ‘Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Others Fall Apart’.
The unquestioned logic in ‘the West’ is that building a nation involves introducing democracy.
Yet this clearly hasn’t worked.
As nation & history after nation & history are examined, the author makes clear that a nation is built in reverse order.
Something important has to exist first: identification with some sort of collective purpose.
Healthy and real links between groups and ethnicities, between citizens and the State, alliances that bridge divisions: all build up a shared identity, and combat the ‘zero sum game’ mentality necessary for power grabs and abuse.
Then democracy. India is an example.
Might this help the introduction of a self-managing culture in businesses?
There’s a sneaky suspicion amongst some who have been burned by attempting such a transformation that the Leaders of the hierarchy, reluctant to really change, act out in an ‘over to you, then’ way.
Perhaps the first step is to encourage networks to organically build some sense of shared identity and purpose .
And then a self-organising transformation might stand a chance.