Designing the Millennial Workplace

Designing the Millennial Workplace

In the movie The Intern, a 70-year old Robert De Niro is hired to work in an online fashion start-up. Selling woman's clothes. With a highly personal touch. And great customer service. A bit like Zappos without any shoes.  

He's hired to work with the CEO. Who cycles around the office. Flits between meeting after meeting. Is late for everything. Has no time for anything. Yet somehow keeps the company going.

Bar her EA, everybody at the company seems to be having a ball. Totally relaxed dress code. Trendy industrial space. A good news bell. They cheer website clicks as they come in.  

The EA is highly qualified. But used as a dogsbody. Has to do everything. All the shit. And is woefully under-appreciated. Almost ignored. Until she has an emotional breakdown. 

At first, the CEO ignores De Niro. Gives him one five minute meeting. Then nothing. But he notices things. Does things off the bat. Remains professional. And becomes a silent mentor for her. Experience and old-style loyalty. Having her back. Helping her shape her day. Do her work. Respect her EA. Save her family. 

And then, because he's working in a Millennial environment, he stresses out. Grows a mohawk. And starts muttering to himself in the mirror. Or maybe I'm getting my films mixed up? Although the mohawk is important. 

Understanding the Millennial Workplace

Millennials have always lived in a fast-paced world. Instant information. Instant communications. Do it now, now, now. They don't work well with traditional control methodologies. Cope with technological pacing. Or bureaucratic formalization.  And definitely not cultural normalization. These things are not just pass√© to the Millennial. But evidence of managerial incompetence.  

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Organisational Culture (and why it's dying)

Organisational Culture (and why it's dying)

Organisation life has beliefs, routines, and rituals that make it cultural. We can measure it. Describe it. Even change it. I don't think anybody would deny that organisational culture is everywhere. Unavoidably part of our everyday reality. 

But this is a benign interpretation. So benign as to be meaningless. It has no power to motivate. It's just a measurement of practice. Yet a whole industry has arisen around it.

We know there is a gap between what management wants to happen and what is actually happening. The classic definition of irony. So, we look at espoused organisational values. See where they differ from how things happen in reality. Then try to close the gap. It's a big thing. That's why words like "alignment" are so trendy.  

But this is not where the real irony lies. No, the real, bitter irony lies in the lost promise of culture. And how we've found nothing to replace it. Which is why everyone is so cynical, sarcastic, anxious and disengaged. 

The Promise of Organisational Culture

The above benign interpretation is completely different than the original concept of organisational culture. This promised long-lasting meaning at work. It would produce loyal and hard-working employees. Great engagement. Fantastic enthusiasm. Wonderful lives. 

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The Future of Organisation

The Future of Organisation

I'm trying to develop a framework of leadership and organisational design which integrates with contemporary socio-cultural life. The two theories of human society I work with are the hypermodern and the metamodern.

This article attempts to explain their relevance. I will appreciate any comments, whether supportive, critical, challenging or dismissive. 

The Hypermodern

Hypermodernity is a society characterized by movement, fluidity and flexibility.

Hypermodern society aims at expanding wealth, better living standards, medical advances, and life easing technologies. The driving motivation is to pull away from the natural limits that constrain human life.  It rejects history as a source of knowledge. The past teaches hypermoderns nothing. Everything changes too quickly to learn anything of worth from the past! 

Instead, there is an excessive faith in the ability of reason to solve the problems of humanity. The promise to improve individual choice and freedom. Money flows to companies and universities promising technological and rational solutions. Social projects are irrelevant and unfunded. 

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Are Millennials Unmanageable?

Are Millennials Unmanageable?

Millennials are enthusiastic, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, opportunistic, lazy, unproductive, and self-obsessed.  Apparently! In recent weeks, this "The Generations in the Workplace" infographic meme has been causing some distaste in millennials.  They, perhaps not surprisingly, objected to some of the negative generalisations. 

So, is it fair?  There has to be some reason for such an infographic meme.  As Fox Mulder would say, "The Truth is Out There." 

Fortunately, we are in a happier position than Fox Mulder was. We don't have some shady military agency hiding all the clues from us. It is perfectly possible to piece together a picture of the millennial environment. To understand why they behave in certain ways. To see where the negative generalisations come from. And then challenge them. 

In a Nutshell: Millennials are (a) serious about mocking past forms of existence, (b) inspired to find new ways to work and live and (c) on a journey of discovery and self-improvement.

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