Organizational Breakdown

Had a conversation with a restaurant manager when he said he hates computers. His life has gone from 90% working with food to maybe 60%. Naturally he did not get into this kind of work to spend so much time dealing with computers.

GeorgiaVIEW Admin Retreat

At first I thought the issue was empowerment. A few decades ago, important people had assistants to do all their minutia. They did not write letters so much as quickly express what it should say, someone else wrote, and had it approved before going off to send it. Now, important people write an email themselves. Well, more so than they used to do. Technology has made minutia easier and changed assistant jobs into accomplishing more complex tasks.

As it turns out the issue was more organizational complexity. The manager’s accountant found a mistake and told him to talk to another department who sent him to third who sent him to a fourth. Each admitted the mistake should be fixed, but none could correct it.

Sound familiar? You might have encountered it dealing with customer support with a utility or government agency. The organization is so big and so complex individuals within it are not capable of knowing where to direct customers to have the problem solved. Only the most tenacious can force the difficult issues. When employees are empowered with autonomy to make decisions and solve problems, they make things move along and keep customers happy.

Still sad computers take the blame for people designing organizations.

TED Talk: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

I was attracted to this video because a while ago I read Daniel’s book: A Whole New Mind. Take the concept that simple, clearly defined jobs will move to overseas. So to succeed in the United States, children need to be learning conceptual skills and become the people inventing the work doled out to overseas workers. Let’s ignore that overseas workers are more than capable of conceptual work like our kids.

The pervasiveness of functional fixedness perhaps explains why I have a job. (That and I’m not a gestault pscychologist.) The web comic xkcd recently posted a flowchart on how to become a computer expert where the pick one at random is overcoming functional fixedness. Much of what I do is figuring out non-intuitive issues and document a way to make it work aka a workaround.

I like his list of what economists say are good motivators to replace monetary incentives. The opportunity to get incentives like these drew me to this project. Of course, we don’t have the levels of autonomy Pink describes. Baby steps! Can you see your employer allowing the employees to spend one day a year working on whatever the employees wish to deliver a new product? Some autonomy in a group I work with here resulted in Yaketystats.

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

My favorite quote:

Traditional notions of management work great when you want compliance. If you want engagement, self-direction works better.

So this video is why this week I’ve been talking about how compliance sucks.  🙂