12 Chapters
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Chapter 6 Knowledge Entrepreneurs: A Working Contract of Rights and Responsibilities

Halal, William E. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A Working Contract of Rights
and Responsibilities

Not long ago, work life was a pretty straightforward affair. You found a job, did what you were told, and were paid a salary.

But recently this system began coming apart. Layoffs have shattered the bonds of employee-employer loyalty. Wages have been falling for two decades. Union membership has dropped to a fraction of its former levels. And one-third of the labor force has become lost in a “contingent” status of part-time or temporary work.

At the same time, other changes have begun introducing more enlightened work practices. Employees are encouraged to participate in major decisions. Many now own their companies. They enjoy broader rights to control their work. The labor force is becoming diverse. And most jobs are far more interesting than they once were.

These crosscurrents in the employment relationship flow out of a turbulent passage in our concept of work. The paternalistic system in which “bosses” supervised “employees” in running the machinery of an Industrial Age is yielding to a complex world of knowledge work where more is asked of us. Organizations today need the intellect, involvement, and creative ideas of everyone who works in them. The confusing changes noted above are searching steps toward redefining work life.

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Chapter 7 Intelligent Growth: Balancing Ecological Health and Economic Progress

Halal, William E. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Balancing Ecological Health
and Economic Progress

It is tempting to think that Mother Nature will be safe now that an environmental ethic has swept around the world. Even business firms are competing to prove how “green” they are. But recent events suggest that the problems remain formidable. The “Big Green” initiative in California was defeated soundly in 1994, and an antienvironment backlash is under way in other parts of the United States.1

These reactions represent more than resistance by growth advocates. In a wholistic world, they are another part of the whole, telling us that environmentalism is not easily reconciled with protecting jobs, improving living standards, avoiding government intrusion, and other issues that concern most people.

The “McDonald’s Clamshell Decision” offers a good example of the complexity involved. Environmentalists demanded that the company use paper packages rather than the plastic “clamshells,” which, it was claimed, cause pollution and do not decompose well. But the company had spent millions of dollars developing a biodegradable plastic package. Furthermore, studies published in Science concluded that plastic is less environmentally harmful than paper when all factors are considered, such as the loss of trees and the energy needed to make paper packages. Yet the public pressure became so intense when droves of children were organized to write letters of protest, that McDonald’s relented and switched to paper, against the better judgment of its managers.2

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Chapter 2 From Hierarchy to Enterprise: Internal Markets Are the New Form of Organization Structure

Halal, William E. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Internal Markets Are the New Form
of Organization Structure

It has become a cliché to note that business schools are notorious for their poor management. Mine was no exception. An especially irksome problem was getting the copy center to work properly. Professors thrive on paper, yet we couldn’t seem to get copies made in less than a week. We knew that our local Kinko’s could get them done in a day, but we would have to pay. Since the copy center was free, we kept using it despite bad service. In fact, that’s one reason why the service was bad: we overused this free good, clogging the system. Repeated attempts to get the copy center to improve its operations and the faculty to curb their excessive usage had little effect.

The problem was that we were relying on a hierarchical assignment of tasks that were too complex for this approach. We needed good service. We needed faculty accountability. We needed a copy center manager who was motivated to help us. We needed a choice of providers. In short, we needed a market.

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Chapter 9 Inner Leadership: How to Handle the Coming Power Shift

Halal, William E. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

How to Handle the Coming Power Shift

Reading the previous chapters, you’ve probably wondered how in the world managers like yourself are going to accomplish all these difficult innovations. The ideas may make sense, but how will you restructure today’s bureaucracies into market systems? Unite diverse interest groups into a political coalition? Reorient sales to serving people? Organize work teams that manage themselves? Transform operations so that they are ecologically benign? And keep this entire system constantly adaptive to change?

You are not going to do it using authority, but by drawing out the talents of others. I was privileged to witness a vivid demonstration of this type of leadership when visiting a manufacturing company. In contrast to the antagonism between various groups that was once rife in industry, this organization had learned to work together by confronting its differences in a constructive spirit. Seated at a conference table were managers, labor leaders, suppliers, distributors, and even officials from the local government. Most striking was that the president of the company did not seem a particularly imposing person. He had no commanding presence, was not a genius, and showed little charisma. How, I wondered, did he manage to pull this diverse group of big egos together into a harmonious team?

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Appendixes

Halal, William E. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

This exercise is designed to allow participants to experience the effects of different tasks on organization structure.

The instructor should assign participants to groups of 3 to 7 people and have each group select a leader. The leaders are then asked to have their groups perform two different tasks, and the results are posted on a chalk-board or flipchart.

The first task is to add up a page full of random numbers and produce a total. (See Exhibit 1. The correct answer is 161,280.) The instructor should make it clear that group leaders are free to go about this assignment any way they choose and that they are competing against the other groups to obtain a reasonably close answer in the shortest time possible. After starting, the instructor notes the elapsed time as each group produces a good answer, and posts the time. Groups are then asked to describe how they organized themselves on a scale of 0 (mechanistic) to 10 (organic). These results are posted under the heading “Organization Structure.”

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