In the Principles class, I discuss the importance of employee centered management – the belief that if you take care of your people, they will take care of the customer, and the business will take care of itself. Letting the genie out of bottle (i.e., giving employees the controls), may therefore be the best way to ensure superlative product.
The new approach trades sanitized, shrink wrapped jobs for the chaos of self-managed work teams – in which who does what is up for grabs. The “messiness” of teams (which to the casual observer passes for lack of control) is the incubator from which break through ideas percolate. Task forces and cross functional teams have historically generated some of the most successful products.
Leaving people to their own devices may seem risky, but it’s sometimes the only way to achieve results. Workers don’t enjoy the rigid, impersonal, authoritative style suggested by Max Weber – nor do they enjoy toiling at jobs embedded within a stratified hierarchical behemoth. Centralized control is simply not feasible in a rapidly changing world. Mary Kay Ash’s exhortation “make me feel important” translates into bosses loosening the reigns – trusting employees enough to stay off their backs, and letting them decide how to best do their jobs.
Companies that engage in people centered practices have seen productivity soar, turnover decline, and absenteeism decrease. Where control is concerned, the organizational motto should be “Give it to the people.” Autocracy is an inappropriate and antiquated mode of governance in a world in which solidarity should be companywide. As managers’ roles evolve to that of helpmate, a more unified workforce will emerge – one in which the interlocking of ideas results in a fusion within firms.