Unleashing Human Potential over Employing Human Resources

Whoev­er sees orga­ni­za­tions as machines and treats humans like cog­wheels in them must not com­plain that peo­ple only work to the rule. Under these cir­cum­stances, more than work­ing to the rule can­not be expect­ed. Wher­ev­er peo­ple are used as resources, this is how they behave. Peo­ple then devel­op their indi­vid­ual poten­tials in their leisure time — or fall short of their pos­si­bil­i­ties. Lead­er­ship can make a deci­sive dif­fer­ence for all sides. That is why the first the­sis of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship is: “Unleash­ing human poten­tial over employ­ing human resources.”

With­out peo­ple, no econ­o­my. Con­se­quent­ly, man is always the pur­pose and the econ­o­my is only a means — and not the oth­er way around.
Götz W. Werner

Clear­ly, orga­ni­za­tions are about human resources. Effec­tive and effi­cient use of phys­i­cal and men­tal labour was always and still is a sig­nif­i­cant val­ue. That is why, at the very end of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship, there is also the expla­na­tion: “This means that the val­ues below are also impor­tant, but we val­ue the high­light­ed val­ues above. In the 20th cen­tu­ry, this pro­fes­sion­al man­age­ment of man­pow­er led to an enor­mous increase in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in man­u­al work. In this respect, this man­age­ment of human resources has a value.

The most impor­tant, and indeed the tru­ly unique, con­tri­bu­tion of man­age­ment in the 20th Cen­tu­ry was the fifty-fold increase in the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the man­u­al work­er in man­u­fac­tur­ing. […] The most impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of man­age­ment in the 21st cen­tu­ry will be to increase knowl­edge work­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty – hope­ful­ly by the same per­cent­age. […] The meth­ods, how­ev­er, are total­ly dif­fer­ent from those that increased the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of man­u­al workers.
Peter F. Druck­er. Man­age­ment Chal­lenges for the 21st Cen­tu­ry. Harper­Busi­ness, 1999.

But it is no longer enough to man­age human resources. Both peo­ple and activ­i­ties have changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the last 50 years. Man­u­al work has been and is becom­ing increas­ing­ly auto­mat­ed, and the pro­por­tion of knowl­edge work is steadi­ly increas­ing. And peo­ple are no longer unskilled or low-skilled work­ers, but increas­ing­ly high­ly trained knowl­edge work­ers. Their man­pow­er must also be used effec­tive­ly, but the only ones who can and should decide what this means are the knowl­edge work­ers themselves.

Even if employed full-time, few­er and few­er peo­ple are „sub­or­di­nates“ — even in fair­ly low-lev­el jobs. Increas­ing­ly they are „knowl­edge work­ers.“ And knowl­edge work­ers are not sub­or­di­nates; they are „asso­ciates.“ For, once beyond the appren­tice stage, knowl­edge work­ers must know more about their job than their boss does — or else they are no good at all.
Peter F. Druck­er, Management’s New Par­a­digm, 1998

In this sense, man­age­ment is replaced by self-orga­ni­za­tion. The more impor­tant becomes lead­er­ship. And espe­cial­ly lead­er­ship with the pur­pose of self-lead­er­ship of peo­ple entrust­ed to it. The task of lead­er­ship is no longer to use stan­dard­ized human resources prof­itably, but to cre­ate and main­tain an ecosys­tem like a gar­den­er. An ecosys­tem, in which peo­ple can devel­op their indi­vid­ual poten­tial and use it for the pur­pose of the orga­ni­za­tion. “Lead­er­ship is ser­vice — not a priv­i­lege. The ser­vice for the employ­ee is to offer him or her the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op him­self or her­self.” Bodo Janssen’s slo­gan led to impres­sive suc­cess at Upstals­boom in terms of employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion (plus 80%) or sick­ness rate (from 8% to 3%) on the on hand but also on the bot­tom line with a dou­bling of rev­enues with­in three years and a simul­ta­ne­ous increase in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty (source: Upstals­boom). Val­ue cre­ation through valuing.

One does not man­age peo­ple — the task is to lead peo­ple. And the goal is to make pro­duc­tive the spe­cif­ic strengths and knowl­edge of each individual.
Peter F. Drucker

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By Marcus Raitner

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.

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