19 Slices
  Title Author Publisher Format Buy Remix
Medium 9781609948221

One: Replacing Leadership with Stewardship

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

THIS BOOK IS about how our institutions are managed and governed.

There is a longing in each of us to invest in things that matter and to have the organization in which we work be successful. Our task is to ensure that when we step aside, our job, the service we provide to the world, and hopefully our organization still exist for the next generation. No easy task in this environment.

This book is also about living out democratic values, using the workplace as the focal point. One of its goals is to quicken our efforts to reform our organizations so that our democracy thrives, our spirit is answered, and our ability to serve customers in the broadest sense is guaranteed.

 

THE EVIDENCE THAT our organizations are not working well is fully upon us. Something stark has happened to our institutions that we were not quite ready for. Every sector of society is constantly in the process of reform. Health-care reform, financial reform, education reform, government reform. Crises that precipitate this kind of reform always come packaged in economic terms first, even though the real issues are much more profound. Our schools, our health-care systems, our government agencies, and our private businesses and industries are under financial scrutiny. Our manufacturing capability has been exported to low-cost-labor countries. Our service functions have been largely automated, to the extent that some companies now consider that allowing you to talk to a human being is a competitive advantage. All organizations continue to search for the latest program to reduce cost. Reengineering and total quality movements have come and gone. Now we are lean and agile. Adaptability and innovation are thought to be the critical competitive edges.

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Four: Choosing Service over Self-Interest

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

STEWARDSHIP HOLDS THE possibility of shifting our expectations of people in power. Part of the meaning of stewardship is to hold in trust the well-being of some larger entity—our organization, our community, the earth itself. To hold something of value in trust calls for placing service ahead of control, to no longer expect leaders to be in charge and out in front.

There is pride in leadership; it evokes images of direction. There is humility in stewardship; it evokes images of service. Service is central to the idea of stewardship.

 

THE IDEA OF service through stewardship has been with us forever in a religious context. The Bible directs us to care for the earth. Many of our religious institutions have practiced stewardship for ages, primarily as an exercise of financial responsibility. Stewardship committees today function as fund-raising groups, and sometimes they also have a voice in deciding how to distribute funds to worthwhile causes in the community. Corporate stewardship has come to mean financial responsibility for the institution and good citizenship toward the community it lives in. Stewardship for our purposes, though, goes beyond financial accountability and beyond being accountable for the right use of the talents given to us. Stewardship here has a political dimension in that it is also concerned with the use of power. One intent of stewardship is to replace self-interest with service as the basis for holding and using power.

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Medium 9781609948221

A Case Study Continued: The Answer to the Power Company Story, “Sometime Later in the Week”

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

“Sometime Later in the Week”

THIS IS THE final answer to the story that featured Arthur, field technician; Mr. Phillips, supervisor; and a work process where the customer was left to make things happen and essentially fend for himself. The story is at the beginning of part 2. If you forgot, read it again. It’s not that long.

There is no one solution, but if there were, it would focus on the stewardship contract, the management practices, and the basic architecture discussed in the book to this point. The elements would be these:

1. Renegotiate the contract with Mr. Phillips and Arthur about the kind of response time, responsibility, and attention to customers that is now required. They are living in a marketplace and they do not know it. If they do not know it, then people above them do not know it, either. They should invite customers to talk to them about what is not working. The new contract includes the fact that changes are needed to move toward the idea of partnership, internally and externally. We cannot have a partnership with the customer if we do not have one with each other.

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Nine: Financial Practices Creating Accountability with Self-Control

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Creating Accountability with Self-Control

IN MOST DECENTRALIZED companies, the corporate executives give autonomy to their operating companies in all areas of operation but two: the control of people and the control of money. They understand that how you control money and how you control human resources practices are the keys to the kingdom. This chapter is about the money; the next one is about the people.

 

MONEY IS VITAL to how we govern because it is the universal measuring device. It does not measure everything we care about, but it is the common language we use to measure the health of the institution, as well as our promises to each other and how well we have delivered on those promises. We have created the finance function to help us become fully informed and communicate about performance. Financial functions also help people, through budgets, to document and keep track of their promises. These intentions are service oriented and a critical means for people at all levels to fulfill their stewardship responsibility.

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Medium 9781609948221

Ten: Human Resources Ending the Practice of Paternalism

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Ending the Practice of Paternalism

THE PROCESS OF managing people, just like managing money, is everybody’s job. The human resources function, as a staff group, is a focal point for defining practices and policies that embody our intentions about how to govern. Our belief that consistency and control are the cornerstones for running productive organizations is visibly reflected in our human resources policies and in the way we expect this staff function to operate. HR too often evolves into a caretaking and enabling function whose assignment is to take responsibility for the morale and emotional well-being of employees.

 

THE TRADITIONAL ROLE of line management is to be in charge of patriarchy, their primitive statement to employees being “We own you.” To balance this, human resources has been put in charge of paternalism. Their primitive statement to employees is “Don’t worry so much about the fact that they own you, because we will take care of you.” This combination creates the golden handcuffs that make living in a world of dominance and dependency so tolerable. As employees, we yield sovereignty with the expectation that those in charge of us will care for us in a reasonable and compassionate way. As leaders, as opposed to stewards, we think that if we have protective and caring human resources policies, we have ruled with grace and kindness. Leadership does not question its own desire for dominance; it asks only that the dominance be implemented humanely. The handcuffs of control become golden when they are fitted with the promise of protection and satisfaction.

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Eleven: Compensation and Performance Evaluation Overturning the Class System

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Overturning the Class System

Two elderly ladies leaving a restaurant:
Alice: The food in that restaurant is terrible!
Ruth: I know, and the portions are so small!
                      —Woody Allen

 

A COMPENSATION SYSTEM is like a bad marriage. Not happy, but we fear that if we get out of it and look for something better, we might end up worse off than before. So it is with the sacred ground of how we pay people. We have energy about pay that far transcends what you would expect from an economic transaction between employee and employer. Our feelings about it rank right up there with births, weddings, and the big bang theory.

 

LOOKING AT OUR paycheck, we draw conclusions about self-worth, justice in the world, our political and economic system, and our personal security. This is all based on whether our boss has given us a 2.56 percent or a 3.93 percent salary increase. Keep in mind that this is a boss whom I may not want as a neighbor, who doesn’t know how complex my job is, and who doesn’t understand the depth of my contribution to this zoo I call my workplace. Whether I am rated large, colossal, or mammoth, though, affects my pay, and pay is what it is all about. This is the mind-set for beginning any discussion of rewards.

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Medium 9781609948221

Fourteen: Cynics, Victims and Bystanders

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

EVERY EFFORT TOWARD political reform runs into cynicism and doubt that any real change is possible. This doubt resides at every level of an organization and in every segment of our society. Whether we are getting out the vote for an election, working with schools to improve literacy, or getting our own unit to be stewards to our organization, we run into deep feelings of futility. Within each of our organizations there is a solid and seemingly unified contingent wearing T-shirts that say, “This too shall pass.” Stewardship is an exercise of faith, responsibility, and commitment. As soon as we choose stewardship, we need a way of confronting doubt, helplessness, and indifference. When people do not buy partnership, empowerment, and service, it is not because it does not make sense or they think it will be bad for the business. It is more that they do not think it is possible or practical, or they don’t trust us to make it work. Unattended, cynicism will carry the moment, and charisma, reason, and a compelling vision are not enough to get the job done.

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Seven: Redesigning Management Practices and Structures

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

SHIFTING THE SOCIAL contract from self-interest to service becomes concrete and enduring when traditional management practices and structures get redesigned and our lives are more and more congruent with our desires and intentions. What is important about these changes is that in most cases, the redesign efforts, plus ongoing operational responsibilities, reside in the hands of the core work team rather than with an expert staff group. The staff groups will help, but the power to choose is within the line organization and at the levels where the work gets done. The reintegration of the managing of the work with the doing of the work, the operational demise of the class system, bringing the ideals of partnership and empowerment to life—all hinge on shifting practices in these new directions.

 

THE STARTING POINT for the change effort is full disclosure. On the surface, giving people complete information sounds pretty straightforward. Not so. If knowledge is power, then patriarchal governance is very selective about what gets reported, when, and to whom. Being careful about what we communicate probably stems as much from the wish to protect as the wish to control. What people don’t know won’t hurt them. No news is good news. The ancient habit of shooting the messenger is somewhere in the collective memory of each of us. All rationalizations.

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Medium 9781609948221

Fifteen: The Answer to “How?”

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

WRITE ALL THE books you want. Give all the speeches you want. Run all the meetings, workshops, and conferences you want. Bleat out your longing for how the world should work, and you will get only one question back…”How?”

 

NO ONE CARES anymore about why we should do something. No one cares about when we should do something; we are always beginning too late. We are in such a hurry, and so eager to copy what others are doing, that the question of whether we should act at all only delays us and wastes our time. Fire—no time and little interest in aiming. The question is “How?” You want to transform institutions, to empower them, to make them just in time, continuously improve them, excellentize customers and quality, do ethics, flatten them, shrink them, catalyze leaders to take us into the rosy future, and the question that keeps coming up is “How do you do it?” This question becomes more interesting than the answer.

This chapter is the answer to the question “How?” It is the ultimate how-to-do-it guide, taking only one chapter to deliver. Most how-to-do-it books give you instructions in one narrow area…cooking, home repair, communications, inventory control, customer service, leadership. This chapter accepts the challenge of teaching you how, regardless of your question. The original working title for this book was How. Not a question. An answer. How. This chapter is intended to put an end to the question “How?”

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Sixteen: Stewardship for the Common Good

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

WE ARE LIVING in a time when the interdependence of commerce with the earth, our health, and our care for the people on the margin is becoming unmistakably obvious. When we speak of a shrinking world, we are referring to these interconnections. The private and public sectors are the palm and back of the same hand. This means that the private sector, in order to maintain its license to operate, will be under growing pressure to more powerfully serve the public good. Taken seriously, this will constitute a shift in purpose and function.

 

THERE IS MORE at stake in choosing stewardship than the rethinking and redesign of organizational life. The core elements of stewardship, like the right use of power, putting choice close to the ground, enabling as much social equity as possible, and valuing local governance over central control, also apply to communities and the common good of the world at large.

Stewardship has a long, useful history in serving the public interest. Environmental and conservation groups have long seen their role as stewardship for the earth. There is a vast social-services infrastructure to address societal needs. Private foundations are big players in trying to solve problems in health, poverty, education, and peace. Our interest here is how to deepen this service.

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Five: Defining the Stewardship Contract

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

STEWARDSHIP IS A way to use power to serve through the practice of partnership and empowerment. This is the alternative to the conventional notions of “strong leadership” for implementing changes. The intent is to redesign the governance of our organizations so that service is the centerpiece and ownership and responsibility are strongly felt among those closest to the action: doing the work and contacting customers.

 

IN THE DESIRE to get our intentions more concrete, two things may occupy our minds. One is the destination. What would stewardship look like in practice in our own unit, our own organization? The second preoccupation is with the journey, the way to get there. How can we engage people in redesign and reform so that they participate in the re-creation of their own workplace?

Both the journey and the destination are important. Don’t choose between them. People who are into power tend to overfocus on the destination. Goals, milestones, outcomes, bottom line. People into personal growth tend to overfocus on the journey. Work/life balance, participation, feelings, team building. Both are essential, but you have to start somewhere. Let’s start with the destination.

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Medium 9781609948221

Two: Choosing Partnership over Patriarchy

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

MOST OF OUR organizations are geared to solve problems and make the most of opportunities through strategies of control and consistency. Primary responsibility for these strategies lies with top management. Vision, direction, and leadership are expected to come from the top. If these are lacking, those at the top are held responsible. This approach to governance is best characterized by the concept of patriarchy. In its softer forms, patriarchy behaves like a parent. In its harsher clothing, we call it names like “autocrat.”

 

PATRIARCHY IS NOT about leadership style; it is a belief system first and foremost, which to some extent we all share. Its fundamental belief is that in order to organize effort toward a common goal, which is what organizations are all about, people from top to bottom need to give much of their attention to maintaining control, consistency, and predictability.

Control means that there is a clear line of authority. Decisions about policy, strategy, and implementation are the domain and prerogative of the leader. People at the middle and the bottom exist to execute and implement. In the context of patriarchy, the definition of service for those in charge is to provide clear goals, well-defined jobs and responsibilities, and mechanisms to make sure all are headed in the right direction. The definition of service for the worker is to commit to this direction and to be accountable to those above. Not too complicated—we live it every day.

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Contents

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609948221

Eight: Rethinking the Role of Staff Functions

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

THE STAFF FUNCTION is one area of organizational life that needs to be aligned with the shifting role of leadership in a stewardship culture. Despite flattening ourselves, creating self-managed units, and organizing around customers and businesses, the roles of our legal, finance, human resources, marketing, and other staff departments have remained relatively untouched. Once we have outsourced, automated, and on-lined as many jobs as possible in the support functions, we can question the fundamental way they are used, namely as an arm and extension of top management.

Strong, top-focused staff or support functions and the principles of stewardship are incompatible when we are serious about political reform. Stewardship is accountability combined with the belief in widely dispersed power and a reliance on self-control to keep the ship afloat. In contrast, many support groups have been set up to concentrate power and build a reliance on controls determined by people outside a core work unit. The issue here is not the cost of staff groups or the value of their expertise but rather how they get used. Political reform means raising the same questions about the role of staff groups that we raised about the role of supervisors.

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Thirteen: Re-creating Our Organization through Stewardship

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

 

STEWARDSHIP GIVES US the alternative to the patriarchal strategies that attempt to drive change down from the top. By now, each of our organizations has probably already conducted at least one successful experiment in participation and self-management, and these experiences are a fitting foundation for building our strategy. One of our goals, then, is to put into widespread practice the innovations that we know have worked well in other organizations or in parts of our own. The key to doing this successfully is to honor the management process that created those particular successes.

 

WE DO NOT want to replicate the open-office story, exporting the design for the new office while ignoring the way in which the design was created. This instinct to widely implement the tangible end result of social innovations, without also instituting the participative process that created the innovation, is what makes it so difficult to successfully make use of what we already know. It is like reading only the last chapter of a mystery story. We know who did it, but the answer has no meaning and no lasting impression.

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