Isn’t tradition a funny thing?
There’s a story about a young wife who prepared a roast for Sunday dinner.
She removed the packaging, cut off the ends of the roast, and placed it in a deep metal pan for baking in the oven. Her husband asked why she cut the ends off the roast and, after thinking for a moment she said “That’s how my mother always did it.” Now curious about the practice herself, she decided to ask her mother why they cut the ends off the roast, to which her mother replied “That’s how my mother always did it.” Both of them, determined to learn why the ends of a roast are removed before baking, called grandma.
“Because when I was a young wife in our first home,” she said “my pan was too small.”
Working on Purpose
Do you know why you run your business the way you do? Do you know why your office hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm, with an hour reserved for lunch in the middle? Do you know why your office is arranged the way it is or why your employees bother showing up there at all? Did you set all these systems in place intentionally and with purpose, or are you cutting the ends off your roast for no reason?
We all started as hunters and gatherers, going wherever the food and water went, working as hard or long as it took to eat and live. With agriculture dawned subsistence farming, staying in one place to work the soil as long and hard as the soil demanded, to harvest its fruit and eat and live. Then evolved trade, when the farmer supplied the butcher and baker, who fed the candlestick maker, who in turn lit the farmer’s home — each working as long or hard as required to create value, trade it, eat and live.
Finally, along comes the industrial revolution, and factories produce en masse what used to require many hours from the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. So instead those men spent three regimented shifts each day working their hours in factories, because more hours at the machine meant more widgets produced.
For a hundred year blip in the millions-of-years of human existence, hours equaled value.
Now here we are in the second millennium, many of us still producing beautiful, valuable widgets (like the car you drove to work this morning or the computer in your lap right now). However, as a reader of this blog, you’re probably not in a business of widgets. Your car and computer were probably built on another continent and you’re probably a ‘white collar’ professional and U.S. resident. You have a college or graduate education and the value you produce for your employer is derived from the problems you solve, the thoughts you contribute, the code or words you write, the team you coordinate and the relationships you build.
So why then, do you drive to an office every day at 8:00am, take an hour lunch and drive home at 5:00pm?
Call your father, then your grandfather. He’ll tell you that you have no reason to work the same way he did.
For at least six generations we’ve tied work to a building and value to hours. For most of us now, as it was before the industrial revolution, that correlation is no longer true. Technology allows us to create value almost anywhere, with as much or little time as required. Yet here we sit, in gray cubicles like factory workstations, locked in an outdated business culture that persists without purpose.
A Corporate Culture Facelift
Fortunately there are post-industrial pioneers who are leaving factory culture to the factories, creating a more agile, more appropriate framework for the value today’s knowledge workers create. It’s called the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). It throws the outdated, clock-punching, asses-in-chairs method of measuring employee productivity out the corporate window.
If you want to learn more about how or why you should implement ROWE principles in your company and the dramatically positive impact it will make on your company’s culture and employee performance, read Drive by Daniel Pink. If you want to learn more about why company culture is the most crucial element of your brand strategy, read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. If you want to learn more about the far reaching and detrimental impact of old factory habits on knowledge based company cultures, read Linchpin by Seth Godin.
Oh, and keep coming back to this blog. There’s a lot more where this came from.