Tuesday, June 4, 2013

(2) Time to abolish military and quasi-military organizational structures

To argue for their elimination, is not to argue for anarchy.
It is rather to propose a system of decision-making that includes all people in the organization, on all issues, for all departments all of the time. The proposal would not only lop the CEO head off the top, along with the mega-bucks that CEO's have come to grab, but it  would also start with a different premise: one that begins with the notion that all people, given the full amount of information available and the trust that they can make sense out of that information, including both the organization's history and culture as well as the precedents that have preceded the current decision-making points. It assumes that there are very few "guru's" and that organizations dependent on the kind of CEO that Steve Jobs has come to represent are extremely rare, and that their unique mind set are more appropriate for research laboratories, and certainly not for managing organizations.
With the almost complete demise of the labour movement, at least in North America, it is time to rein in the galloping "eliteism" that is threatening to ruin, those organizations that are built on the premise that the "chief" knows best, whether that 'chief' is a man or a woman, thereby literally and metaphorically infantilizing all the underlings to serfs, in the feudal model. Furthermore, the workers have little if any input into the company's direction, given that those large decisions are in the hands of another elite, the investors, whose only claim to fame and power is the possession of their accumulated wealth.
We have to separate wealth from brains, from power and return the power to the ordinary workers, whose expertise has never been more acute, more fully developed and more underdeployed.
Not only do we have an unemployment crisis that is threatening to twist the leading national economies as well as the global economy into another virulent serfdom, or worse, as the rates of poverty, hunger, disease and violence continue to climb exponentially, we also have an underemployment crisis that threatens to, if it has not already completed this mission, rendering workers into robotic 'tools' useful so long as they are producing a profit that is measureable, and disposable like the used tissue in the waste can, following a single sneeze.
We are in danger of letting the elites in every organization, and in every country's government and in every country's civil service and military turn the world into their plaything, leaving the rest of us both gagged and cut off from the very wealth that our efforts are generating.
Governments no longer speak and act for their constituents; corporations no longer, in general, care about the future of the planet and the politicians responsible for making laws that would protect just the environment, to take only one example, are so deeply 'in the pockets' of those same corporations who spend billions lobbying against the very regulations and laws that would make them accountable for their 'carbon footprint' and their careless about both their workers and their workers' planet.
Decision-making, left to an elite individual, or a group of people who consider themselves "superior" is the medicine that has poisoned the very system we now have to take back. And we have to take it back in every corner of our respective cultures.
Replacing 'executive power' with worker power is nothing less than a political revolution; it need not be a violent revolution, so long as those in power do not physically, legally or fiscally resist. And that is a very tall expectation, perhaps in too many cases, a pipe dream.
Nevertheless, if schools can and do take the time and the cost to train their students to serve as peer tribunals in the case of student discipline, as a workable alternative to suspensions and expulsions, then surely our organizations can begin to train and to deploy all levels of workers in all levels of decision-making. The initial costs may be somewhat troubling; however, the long-term impact of such approaches as 'restorative justice' throughout our daily lives far outweighs the initial costs.
Turning our best and brightest people into "truly our best asset" means that those best and brightest people are not only permitted to taste power, anecdotally and incidentally, but on a regular basis. They have to be put in positions where they share responsibility for decisions, in decision-making circles, akin to juries of the common people, with others from different departments, on a regular basis. The learning organization, if we can borrow a phrase from Peter Senge et al, must lead the way in developing cultures of inquiry, of information sharing rather than hoarding, of circles of decision-making, submitted for sober reflection to other circles of decision-making, and a system of concensus has to guide the organization's eventual moves, not some hidden arguments in either the executive suites or the investors annual meetings. All workers have to become investors, as part of their remuneration, and workers everywhere have to resist the latest 'fantasy' from the Harvard Busines Review, dubbed "tours of duty" in which the authors propose that workers are hired for a specific project, with detailed objectives to meet, but with no commitment on the part of the corporation beyond the termination of tht project. The time frame could extend from two, or three or perhaps four years, after which both worker and corporation would be free of any obligation to each other, and depending on the 'track record' of the worker, an option to return for another project might be offered.
The theory of the proposal is that the best workers are really entrepreneurs, ambitious, eager to perform and eager to seek and to find the best opportunities. The writers of the proposal have emerged from their caves in silicone valley, where people have been reduced to digits, dancing on the screens of other digits, for so long as there company is afloat. The issues of benefits, including health and pensions, in their words, as guests on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, have not been reckoned with as yet.
And when confronted with the concept of two-tiers of workers, they agree that not all workers are really equal, that some perform more effectively than others already, that companies can no longer afford to make long-term commitments, given the volatility in the global market place.
However, it is precisely at the time when global volatility is so volcanic, erupting and subsiding with tsunamis of human greed, human abuse of power, human irresponsibility and human unsouciance, that excludes the pawns from participating in the chess game that is owned by the rich, that stability and mutual commitment are most in demand. Quality work, with quality incentives, including sharing of the power of decision-making within each organization, the dissemination of all relevant information for the purpose of those specific decisions, is not only more feasible but it is more sustainable premised on the notion of inclusion rather than the concept of exclusion.
Native peoples have been developing and deploying the 'circle' for decision-making for centuries; their experience and their willingness to share their wisdom are a community resource everywhere from whom the business community, including the political community, can learn many valuable lessons.
Not only do Native Peoples have respect for each other, they also have an abiding reverence for the planet, something that the rest of us have to learn, if we are to survive the next several decades.
Our capacity to seek and to adopt new structures, based on different foundational premises, starting with inclusion and power-sharing would go a long way towards reinventing our attitudes to each other and to our attitudes to our land, water, air and the growth and development of active, engaged, fully participating workers, citizens, learners and teachers.
We have to put the human being back into the centrality of our social planning, our governments' perspectives, our corporations strategic plans, our schools, colleges and universities, and replace the pursuit of dollars, and all the associated costs of such a reductionism, with that human focus, if we are to regain the power over our very institutional life, including our relationships with those institutions.
This is a very small "boat" beset by very stormy winds on seas that are increasingly contaminated, even to the point of the decimation of hundreds of species...and unless and until we are all pulling on the oars, with a more inclusive, universal and compassionate and mutually accepted goal of helping to do our part to make this planet a more 'user-friendly' place, including our work places, our community organizations, our universities and colleges, and our dying religious places and opportunities of worship, our tiny buffeted skiff is going to run aground, dumping all of us into an unforgiving watery tomb.....and that kind of rhetoric is no longer apocalyptic!

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