The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
(via Drop in Tech Stocks Hits Startup Funding - WSJ.com)
Soon, cloud capacity will be available in a spot market http://t.co/pvIL4V1tYE This is the currency of the future: computing cycles— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) April 15, 2014
(I’ve decided to *not* buy this generation of Google Glass. Maybe I am still hoping that Apple will leapfrog it.)— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) April 15, 2014
I’ve been following Anne Marie McEwan from afar for a few years, and it seemed like a good time to pull her into the Socialogy series, especially in light of her 2013 book, Smart Working: Creating the Next Wave.
About Anne Marie McEwan
From the Smart Work Company website:
Anne Marie believes that businesses urgently need to raise their game in managing people and performance environments. It is her mission to help hard-pressed leaders and businesses to rise to the challenge.
Experiential learning is the new hallmark of the MBA*. Anne Marie has experience over a period of 10 years of developing and facilitating work-based Master’s programmes for senior executives in the UK and Russia, across a range of sectors that include NHS, Royal Air Force, telecoms, satellite manufacturing, engineering, retail banking and public sector. She is building on this experience to launch The Smart Work Company’s learning communities.
Anne Marie is a Visiting Fellow at Kingston University Business School. She co-leads, with Dr Marie Puybaraud, Director of Workplace Innovation, the Johnson Controls Global Mobility Network, a learning network for senior IT, FM and HR executives who want to explore how they can best adapt to global workplace trends.
Stowe Boyd: You’ve been researching high-performance work, which I think is a cornerstone of the new way of work that I call leanership. Could you share your thoughts about the connection between high performance and engagement at work?
Anne Marie McEwan: Do you mind if I say a wee bit more about high-performance work? It’s high-performance work systems that I’ve been researching since the mid-90s – the systems bit is crucial. And I use ‘high-performance systems’ in a very broad way to include systems approaches to process innovation like lean, quality and agile manufacturing. At their core is a philosophy of whole workforce participation in innovation as everyone’s business (a Gary Hamel phrase), customer-focus and connected, collaborative learning sewn into everything a business does.
That brings me to various studies on high-performance work systems (HPWS). I reviewed some of these in the research-based book I had published last year, Smart Working: Creating the Next Wave - you can download the chapter here. While the components of HPWSs understandably vary, the one common feature is whole systems of leadership and learning. Enterprises built on HPWS principles invest heavily in skills development, and design work in a way that provides opportunity for skills to be practiced. And by the way, I heard two researchers from Towers Perrin use the phrase ‘whole systems of leadership and learning’ when they were presenting the initial findings from the 2007 Towers Perrin survey on engagement (86,000 people in 18 countries) at a conference at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Now I feel I can answer your question. Adaptive, innovating enterprises need people to learn and unlearn as core capabilities. And on the other hand if you look at the research on intrinsic motivation, people themselves have a deep need to learn and be socially connected. Voila! People are engaged in their work where their needs are met, and performance cultures and environments support them in what they want to do – learn together, socialise and find meaning in their work. And work doesn’t have to be new and whizz-bang. Many people find meaning in service and in work that others might consider routine, tedious or demeaning. Here’s how I conclude one of the chapters:
We see that the meaning of work was and continues to lie in the relationships we have with each other, the relationship we have with the organisation we work for, and in the service we give to others. Creating the initial conditions for relationships to develop that enhance our desire for recognition, self-determination, social status and learning will continue to be associated with high-performance and engaging work.
I’d like to say just one more thing about the link between HPWSs and engagement. The other theme that I’ve been monitoring over the years is an enduring management obsession over the decades with control. How can people be engaged when they continue to be micro-managed and watched like hawks?
SB: Isn’t there a negative correlation of micromanagement and engagement?
AMM: Oh yes, absolutely. But I think the link is inferred rather than explicit. I’ll try to say what I mean by that.
As well as whole systems of learning and leadership, high-performance work systems are designed around people’s need for autonomy and self-determination. Dan Pink picked up on this when he reviewed the research on intrinsic motivation in Drive – that people are motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose. He pays particular attention to the work of psychologists, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, whose research partnership reaches back thirty years, saying that their works reveals that “human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another.”
Another researcher I have a lot of time for comes from the medical literature and that is Professor Sir Michael Marmot. He has for decades been researching the links between ill-health, early death and position in social hierarchies. He says that “failing to meet the fundamental human needs of autonomy, empowerment and freedom is a potent cause of ill-health.”
So that’s what people need. What have they been getting?
Micromanaging and attempts to control their behaviour. I spent four years of a doctorate exploring, among other topics, the tensions between control and autonomy. I came across a book, Control in Organizations, published in 1968 by Arnold Tannenbaum in which he says “the theoretical analysis of control in social systems has a long and venerable history.” That was then and this is now? Well, the authors of an article in the McKinsey Quarterly back in 2007, Harnessing the Power of Informal Networks, say that informal networks “typically fly under management’s radar, they elude control” and that “the greatest limitation of these ad hoc arrangements is that they can’t be managed.”
Greatest limitation? This brings me to the thought that the studies linking high-performance work systems to a range of performance and business outcomes miss a crucial component – at least the ones that I’ve looked at – and that’s the role that informal social dynamics play in engaged, high-performance. This has been the case since the Hawthorne studies in the 1920s and 1930s, then post-war socio-technical systems movement, and through into the lean, quality and agile manufacturing approaches. And now we have researchers at MIT collecting sociometric data and finding that “the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings”. This resonates with what Dr Marie Puybaraud and I found back in 2008 when we brought together a group of executives and academics to explore knowledge management and enterprise social networking. The group strongly identified informal networks as crucial conduits for discovering and sharing who knows what.
So here’s what I infer from the various strands of research that I’ve been watching over the years. Treat people like they aren’t trusted, i.e. micromanage them, and they will not only be disengaged and not care but they might actively organise informally to destroy and obstruct. On the other hand, people are unsurprisingly more likely to be engaged with their work and each other where work systems communicate that people are valued and trusted, that is they are designed around participation, learning and self-determination. And much of this engagement takes the form of creative, cooperation within informal social networks.
SB: I’ve argued that the first step in engagement is that each person has to reengage in their *own* work, or as I say, to sharpen their own shovel and dig their own hole. Our first allegiance has to be to our long-term mastery of our discipline, what it is, and not to the job. What’s your take?
AMM: I’m with you all the way on that. And I think the opportunity, and need, for self-determined action goes way beyond technical mastery of our own disciplines, crucial though that it is. A key feature of the world that we’re heading into is its increasing complexity – organisationally, technically and socially. I hear a lot about how innovation happens at the edges. To my way of thinking, it’s the intersections and knowing how to breach boundaries that we need to gain mastery over.
I’m digressing a bit. I love your image of each of us “sharpening our own shovel.” Again I wrote about this in the book. That’s why the second bit of the title is called ‘Creating the Next Wave’. It’s a call for each of us to take responsibility for own experience of work, and to do it through action – connecting, discovering, experimenting, experiencing and reflecting together. If businesses are slow to provide HPWSs, why not do it for ourselves? I also wrote about how this might happen in a recent blog post, Learning, Leading and Spartacus Moments, if anyone’s interested to find out more about the ideas underpinning my belief that some of us can take responsibility for shaping our own destinies . Not everyone can and it’s not easy. But everyone can take responsibility for, as you say, mastering our own increasingly multi-disciplinary knowledge – and jump ship if we really cannot influence our own experience of work.
SB: Yes, I think that high-performance is the side-effect of high-performers figuring out how to, first, accomplish their own goals, and, second, work to create less friction and higher agility in the work around them, to make it easier to get things done. As you say, for some people that may be the boundaries of their contributions to high performance, but for those with greater charisma and influence, the effects of personal efforts can spread.
AMM: Higher agility, yes definitely. Working to create less friction – that’s interesting and if we had more time, I’d like to hear more about what you mean. I think one of the capabilities high performers will need to develop is in fact the opposite, the ability to engage in creative conflict or daring to disagree, as Margaret Heffernan puts it. They will need to be able to challenge the status quo and engage in trans-disciplinary knowledge creation.
SB: I wonder what scientific discipline you consider the most potentially relevant to those who are trying to lead a change in work practices?
AMM: I’ve really had to think about this, Stowe. The answer that comes quickly to mind is the established discipline of systems thinking, of course. Not sure how ‘scientific’ it is – or ought to be. Too mechanistic? If you had to press me on what my specific knowledge discipline is, I’d say systems thinker but for me that’s about a heuristic, messy approach to organisational dynamics. Perhaps more aligned to art than science.
One of the things I’ve been mulling over for a while is the industrialised way we’ve all been all been formally taught in narrow specialist subjects. This reflects specialisation and division if labour in Taylorism. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have specialist knowledge that needs honing and practicing, but I do think specialising comes with its own set of challenges to future ways of working. I remember the CEO of a pharma company telling me that his biggest problem was that his scientists were not able to talk to each other across their specialised disciplines. Staying with pharma, I highly recommend this BBC World Service from the wonderful Peter Day. It’s about how GSK re-structured its failing, functionally-structured “temple to R&D” into autonomous performance units, where specialists were taken out of their functions and put together in multi-functional teams to solve problems together as they arose and “at the bench”.
So what we need are technical specialists with polymathic tendencies who are also increasingly skilled in the social capabilities that allow them to engage in co-creating transgressive, boundary-breaching knowledge - communicating, cooperating, able to “crack cultural codes”. Perhaps we need to be thinking in terms of a new knowledge discipline? A sort of systems thinking 2.0, which specifically reflects boundary-breaching social complexity, cultural diversity, uncertainty and mess? Something that re-frames old approaches like Checkland’s Soft System Methodology?
I realise many might think that the application of complexity dynamics to social systems already does that - but I have a problem with the detached language of complexity. People are not ‘agents’. Birds might follow and flock, other animals might respond to pheromones. But people can chose both to ignore and act on feedback, act in their own interest and in the interest of others, form alliances to engage in creative or destructive behaviours – and so on. If what I do understand about complexity is accurate, then the best we can do is set the initial conditions – that is create performance environments (high-performance work systems) – and then think in terms of probabilities and heuristics. So creating favourable performance environments might increase the probability of high-performance outcomes but no guarantees.
I’m getting way beyond my own specialist knowledge in talking about complexity and probably don’t know what I’m talking about! So I’ll stop there. I’ve got more questions than answers on this one, I’m afraid.
SB: Thanks for your thoughts and observations, Anne Marie.
AMM: Thanks for asking me to participate.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
You may be capable of great things, but life consists of small things. —
Den Ming-Dao @zenandtao
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A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match.
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'I feel fortunate'
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See on bbc.co.uk
When there is nothing left to hide, there is nothing left to seek. —