Three Thoughts for The Weekend

For today’s Supply Chain Action, I want to leave you with three unrelated entries:

1. Thoughts on People at Work.  Most of the challenges we face anywhere in our lives, including work, have to do with human nature and the interaction of people.  Academics and consultants call this organizational behavior.  I define this as people acting in an organizational context.  One of the chief goals of management remains to create a context in which the positive potential for human behavior and interaction dominates the baser impulses in ever-increasing proportion, particularly as it relates to executing the business.  So, think back on your own organizational experience.  How are we doing?  I was recently talking with a former colleague and CEO.  A dominant workplace emotion surfaced quickly in the conversation.  I suspect that you know this emotion well–fear.  Managers fear.  Subordinates fear. They fear their peers and they fear each other.  Fear begets procedures which, in turn, give birth to additional fears.  People, and therefore, the organizations they make up, spend much time and energy trying desperately to alleviate these fears.  Does this serve the customers?  Does it serve shareholders?

Some fear is reasonable and right.  We all need to fear consequences of truly counterproductive acts such as arriving at the office under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances, embezzling company funds, sexually harassing colleagues, or ignoring the work requirements and deadlines.  But, I suspect that most of us are not preoccupied with these fears.  It is the more subtle fears of whether our groups or our work will be perceived as valuable.  Will I be credited properly for the work of my subordinates?  Will the subordinate steal the limelight?  Is my job really necessary?  Will a peer or peer group steal the credit for a project?  If I team with others, will I appear weak?  Will my manager give preferential treatment to a peer?  Will I be able to manipulate the statistics so that my measurements are positive, even if my work is not effective or the metrics are not the right ones?  Will I be viewed as disruptive if I challenge the status quo?  How can I gain status by showing support for ideas I don’t even agree with.  I’m sure we could create a much longer list.  Many years ago, W. Edwards Deming wrote on organizational behavior.  In his 1982 book, Out of the Crisis, he laid down 14 points.  Point 8 is “Drive Out Fear”.  It should be taken in context but it is food for thought.  Are we really earning our pay if we are motivated by fear?  Are shareholders being served?  Of course, shareholders pay a pyramid of managers to determine what work should be done and to decompose the work as it descends the organizational hierarchy.  But, whether you are a manager or an individual contributor, you are responsible for your own actions, not the behavior of those you cannot control.  

Find the confidence to work and act responsibly and respectfully, but not out of fear.  Or . . . was Deming wrong? Am I wrong? Is fear really the grease that gets things done?

2. In case you missed it, the first part of my article, “Finding Value in Your Value Network,” was just published this week in the “Supply Chain Comment” column of Supply Chain Digest.  If you are a subscriber to Supply Chain Digest (something I recommend), you will find a link to the article  under “This week in Supply Chain Digest”.  Or, you can find it here:  http://www.scdigest.com/experts/guest_11-09-13-1_Finding_Value_In_Value_Chain.php?cid=4949

I hope and believe that you will find some helpful new insights and some reminders of things you may already know, all of which you can start to use right away.  The rest of the article is due out next week.

3. Finally, I’ll leave you with these words from Mother Theresa:  “We can do no great things – only small things with great love.” 

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for checking out this blog.  I hope you will be back each week.

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About Arnold Mark Wells
Industry, software, and consulting background. I help companies do the things about which I write. If you think it might make sense to explore one of these topics for your organization, I would be delighted to hear from you. I am employed by Opalytics.

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