Is This The World of Work We Created? What Did We Do It For?

Is This The World of Work We Created? What Did We Do It For?

The guard blew his whistle. "Stand clear of the doors." Just as one more person hurtled down the stairs to make his train. Squeezed in. Caused the doors to slide back open. The whistle and announcement again. And finally underway.

Another commute into the city. Over 30 degrees outside. Hotter in. The air conditioning wheezing out a trickle of cool relief.  Neon lights almost impotent against flickering smart screens. iPhones, iPads, Androids, Kindles. Some reading. Some watching. Some texting. The odd person slumped uncomfortably against the window, getting a few more minutes sleep. 

Schoolkids chattering. Random inanities mixed with fearful excitement about upcoming exams. One couple, wedged together in the aisle, arranging evening activities. Who's leaving work early to pick up the kids. Who's cooking. Who has to work until ten.

And so on. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Every city in the developed world. 

What are we doing it for? Scurrying around like important ants late for a dropped sugar cube. Does it make us happy? Do we do worthwhile things? 

The State of Work

I'm regularly invited to lectures, seminars, presentations and meetings about the current state of work. Voraciously consumed media on the same. This is what I repeatedly hear:

  • 86% believe there is a leadership crisis
  • 75% of employees say their boss is the worst part of their job
  • 65% say they’d take a new boss over a pay rise
  • 70% of projects fail or come in significantly over budget
  • 90% of startups fail
  • 85% of employees are disengaged
  • 66% of change fails
  • 66% of millennials are looking for a new job
  • 50% employees want to change their job

So, it seems for 50-90% of us, work sucks.

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Zombies & Dragons

Zombies & Dragons

I'd like to take you back to the early Eighties. Specifically, Eighties TV. The stories of the rich and powerful. Dallas and Dynasty. The Ewings and the Carringtons. JR and Bobby. Blake and Alexis. The luxury. The trappings of power. The money. The women. The affairs. The decadence. 

Why are long-dead Eighties TV shows relevant to LinkedIn and the themes I blog about? The death of organisational culture? The decline of management thought?Failed change? The decadence of organisational life? And the irony, cynicism and sarcasm of the workplace?

Because, at the same time these shows were being made, management thought was experiencing a frenzy of newfound enthusiasm. The birth of the strong culture movement. A massive outpouring of promises made in the name of the high-tech way of life. A new era, new work organizations, a new man and woman. Huge profits, futuristic innovation, humane working environments, and happy, productive workers. 

We were shown images of utopia. Given promises of an organisational society without discontents. Shown a "you can have it all" world that fulfils dreams. And releases us from limited opportunity. All captured by TV through big hair, large shoulder pads, glittery dresses and Stetson hats. 

"So what", you might ask. I know we are all used to the seriousness of management and organisation being transmitted with numbers. Via statistics. Charts. Tables. Cognitive science. Organisational psychology. And other such serious scientific disciplines. What have Dallas and Dynasty got to do with all of this? 

We forget that organisations are collections of humans interacting with each other. And that human action and interaction have been captured by other disciplines during the centuries. Art, literature, drama, music. And TV shows. That reveal underlying, subconscious themes that concern us all.  

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