I have a dream!

The yearn­ing for a new and bet­ter form of respect­ful and there­by prof­itable coop­er­a­tion between peo­ple is greater than ever. Indus­tri­al­iza­tion and Tay­lorism have trans­formed humans into resources. Ini­tial­ly only the labour of the unskilled work­er was in demand, and Hen­ry Ford even com­plained that he always got also a brain with every pair of hands. Today, in the age of knowl­edge work, the demands upon and roles of the knowl­edge work­er have dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed in many ways. How­ev­er, the basic prin­ci­ple of treat­ing orga­ni­za­tions as machines and using employ­ees as cogs most­ly remained the same. Man is still a means. I have a dream that peo­ple, with all their poten­tial, will real­ly be at the core of orga­ni­za­tions. And that this real­ly makes the dif­fer­ence in digitalization.

Decades have passed since Peter F. Druck­er coined the term knowl­edge work in 1959 and point­ed out that the orga­ni­za­tion needs these knowl­edge work­ers more than the knowl­edge work­ers con­verse­ly need the orga­ni­za­tion. They bear their work equip­ment always in their heads and are there­fore much more flex­i­ble and inde­pen­dent than the assem­bly line work­ers for whom Tay­lorism and the mod­ern man­age­ment based on it were invent­ed. These knowl­edge work­ers must be led with equal dig­ni­ty as asso­ciates rather than sub­or­di­nates. And since almost all work now con­sists in part of knowl­edge work, lead­er­ship today is real­ly only legit­i­mate if it aims at the self-lead­er­ship of the employ­ees entrust­ed to it, as Götz W. Wern­er apt­ly put it.

One does not “man­age” peo­ple. The task is to lead people.

Peter F. Drucker

Decades have also passed since Dou­glas McGre­gor in 1960 ques­tioned the destruc­tive con­cep­tion of human nature in Tay­lorism and sug­gest­ed in his book “The Human Side of Enter­prise” a much more opti­mistic one. Those who want to lead knowl­edge work­ers can and must no longer assume that those work­ers are lazy and must be moti­vat­ed to per­form, as the The­o­ry X of Tay­lorism had pre­vi­ous­ly pos­tu­lat­ed. The much more help­ful assump­tion to lead this “army of vol­un­teers” (John P. Kot­ter) is that of The­o­ry Y, which regards peo­ple as moti­vat­ed and will­ing to per­form. If peo­ple do not show this in the orga­ni­za­tion, it is there­fore a struc­tur­al prob­lem and not a human one.

The answer to the ques­tion man­agers so often ask of behav­ioral sci­en­tists “How do you moti­vate peo­ple?” is, “You don’t.”

Dou­glas McGregor

So there’s hope. We do not have a prob­lem of under­stand­ing, but “only” a prob­lem of imple­men­ta­tion. That is why I still have this dream of a new and bet­ter workplace.

I have a dream that one day the econ­o­my will serve peo­ple and life in gen­er­al and that peo­ple will no longer be means but rather the pur­pose of it.

I have a dream that we treat peo­ple as if they were what they should be and thus take them where they could be.

I have a dream that we put the mis­er­ably failed attempt to moti­vate peo­ple with incen­tives into our cab­i­nets togeth­er with the oth­er soul­less man­age­ment prac­tices and instead build struc­tures that don’t demo­ti­vate peo­ple so much that they need these incen­tives to perform.

I have a dream that humans will no longer be con­sid­ered resources, but that unleash­ing indi­vid­ual poten­tial will be seen as a deci­sive com­pet­i­tive fac­tor in the age of digitalization.

I have this dream every day. 

Let’s dream togeth­er. Let us cre­ate a new and bet­ter world of work step by step. And let’s build humane orga­ni­za­tions for the age of dig­i­ti­za­tion – in the spir­it of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship. Per­sis­tent in our efforts, mod­est in our expec­ta­tion for suc­cess, as the wise mot­to of Götz W. Wern­er says.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The mis­fits.
The rebels.
The trou­ble­mak­ers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things dif­fer­ent­ly.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the sta­tus quo.
You can quote them, dis­agree with them, glo­ri­fy or vil­i­fy them.
But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race for­ward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the peo­ple who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.

Think dif­fer­ent, Apple , 1997

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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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