The Pathless Path
We are in a time without maps.
Quote of the Moment
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My friend Michele Zanini posted this excerpt from Humanocracy, which he co-authored with Gary Hamel. (I spoke with him recently, and a post should be coming from that interchange, soon.) This one treats Handelsbanken, a Sweden-based banking corporation, that has embraced what the authors call a ‘post-bureaucratic’ operating philosophy, or in my jargon, an emergent operating philosophy. As he said in a recent tweet, ‘One of the hallmarks of post-bureaucratic companies is that they distribute ownership--a combination of autonomy and skin in the game--across the firm. @handelsbanken is a great example of this.’
Every Handelsbanken branch has its own P&L. On the revenue side, branches are credited with the net interest they generate from loans and the fees that come from selling mutual funds and other investment products.15 Once made, a loan remains on the balance sheet of the originating branch until it matures. If a mortgage is in arrears, the branch is on the hook to make sure it gets back on track. If a loan gets written off, the loss is recorded as an expense on the branch's P&L. The branches are accountable for all their direct operating costs-they set staffing levels, sign leases, decide on compensation, approve marketing budgets, and more. Centralized services like IT and HR are charged to local branches based on actual usage, and rates are negotiated every year by a committee of branch managers who drive a hard bargain with staff functions.
In other banks, branches are accountable for a ragbag of key performance indicators (KPIs)-top-down targets for customer acquisition, cross-selling, staff costs, and other performance parameters. There's an assumption, manifestly wrong, that this jumble of goals will maximize branch performance. As much as bureaucrats might wish it were otherwise, there's simply no way to construct a set of proxy goals that can adequately capture all the factors that drive profitability. Centrally defined targets, no matter how numerous, can never substitute for the wisdom of well-trained decision makers who are on the ground. Contrary to what is often assumed, highly prescriptive policies and top-down targets erode rather than encourage accountability. When frontline employees are bound by excessively strict policies and forced to manage to a set of artificial KPIs, they're able to delegate failure upward. “After all,” they'll say, “we were only doing what you asked us to do.” By contrast, when they're responsible for a genuine P&L, and have control over the variables that drive profitability, there's no one to blame when performance falls short.
The idea that autonomy and accountability are mutually exclusive is a fiction, based on the dubious assumption that employees are looking for an excuse to be irresponsible. That's not the assumption, or the reality, at Handelsbanken.
Reminds me of Haier’s microenterprise model.
Paul Millerd, the Author of Boundless, offered this in 18 Trends That Will Shape Our Careers in 2022, organized by Nick Dewilde:
The Pathless Path
The default career path – the one that most of us have been following since the end of WWII– is no longer leading us to a desirable place. This path was a byproduct of industrial economies that supported pensions, lifelong employment, affordable homes, and nuclear families. But, as our economy changes, our scripts about work must do the same.
The alternative is what I call the pathless path. It is less of a script and more an acknowledgment that we are in a time between scripts. Until we land on a new “default path,” the only way forward is to create our own. This is quite hard. It involves defining success, grappling with insecurities, running experiments, and embracing a broader definition of “work” beyond what we can be paid for. It is a commitment to figuring out who you are, finding the work that matters to you, and doing it on purpose.
As companies experiment with new ways of operating, the possibilities for organizing our lives around work will increase. That means that the earlier we embark on our own pathless path, the better off we will be.
I might have said we are in a time without maps. But I buy the logic. Also, see Sharpen your own shovel, dig your own hole.
Sarah Todd points out Starbucks’ storyline about being ‘partners’ with its rank-and-file workers is directly countered by the company’s attempts to block unionization. While the company has offered health insurance to part-timers since 1988, and offers parental leave, and tuition reimbursement. The North American president, Rossann Williams, is reported to have asked workers to vote against the union.
Workers at Starbucks’ Elmwood Avenue location in Buffalo voted 19-8 in favor of unionizing under Workers United New York, which is part of the Service Employees International Union. A second location nearby voted against forming a union, while results of an election at a third site have yet to be determined.
Starbucks had faced union campaigns before both in New York City and Philadelphia. The experience didn’t seem to make it any more sympathetic to the unionization efforts in Buffalo.
“It’s about power,” says Ruth Milkman, a professor at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We want to do the right thing for our employees… that’s all very nice,” she says. But “who has the power to determine pay and working conditions? If the employer unilaterally decides to be ‘generous,’ that’s one thing; if they’re sort of forced into it by union negotiations, that’s another.”
Don’t rely on the benevolence of management: get the terms in a contract.
The rising popularity of mouse movers to combat productivity tracking. | Aaron Mak offers a recap on the state of 'mouse-movers' — machines that move computer mice around while people are away from their desks — as a means to spoof desktop activity as a foil to workplace surveillance.
This is not a joke: it’s big business.
According to Jillian Deutsch and Alberto Nardelli,
As many as 4.1 million people working through food delivery and ride-hailing apps could be reclassified as employees under a forthcoming European Union plan meant to improve gig workers’ labor rights.
The gig economy, precarity model is failing, but it was always unsustainable.
New Data Finally Shows Why People Are Quitting Their Jobs. It's Definitely Not Because They're Lazy | Bill Murphy Jr. thinks a lot of people are becoming self-employed and/or entrepreneurs. Maybe. But he doesn’t have the numbers to prove it.