It doesn’t matter how much make up, cosmetics or, more properly, camouflage are being used, virtually all organizations are totalitarian regimes.
In practice, there are owners, the boss, The Man and the rest of the mortals.
But something must be pretty bad in the very fabric of work when you easily observe this characteristic even in cultures where people is supposed to enjoy democracy. I doesn’t help people saying democracy is so good if they actually experience little dictatorships in almost all its organizations at least 8 hours a day all week.
“Our bodies weren't designed to eat the foods that people in rich countries eat, or to get so little exercise. There may be a similar problem with the way we work: a normal job may be as bad for us intellectually as white flour or sugar is for us physically.”
He wrote that to tell programmers, people that are supposed to work with innovation and build new things every day, that working in corporations for a couple of years and only then starting their own business isn’t going to teach them as much as just starting their own thing from scratch and learn as they go.
The abundance of tools and resources makes it a good piece of advice for these days. Something unthinkable a couple of decades ago.
But wait a second...
Is it really good advice for programmers alone? I accept is not for all, but what stops you to think that it isn’t valid for a huge group of industries?
And even if we weren’t computer programmers, in practical terms:
We are all programmers of our cultures.
Maybe is not that we all build new things everyday in the same form programmers do, or with the same techniques, but maybe in other ways and with other techniques we actually do right? I mean:
isn’t a journalist building a new message everyday?
isn’t a screenwriter building a better new inspiring hero’s journey every day?
isn’t a blogger building inspiring messages every day?
isn’t a creative building inter-tribal connections every day?
isn’t [your industry here] building [your valuable product here] every day?
There is a pattern there. We are all moving, redesigning and rebuilding our cultures faster. That’s not a coincidence, seen from a functional point of view:
We are all hackers of our cultures.
But if so, WTF is going on that we insist over and over in working in those little totalitarian regimes?
Frankly I can’t tell exactly, but for sure something is broken in the way we design workplaces.
And I know there is a lot of people ready to admit that problem. But the problem of the problem is to figure out valid, non theoretical alternatives that actually work.
Before that, everybody will be too scared to do anything about it and will be at the mercy of the eternally cynic status quo.
I would like to propose that, even if we don’t know the details, we should find practical ways to democratize action because there is the key to get rid of those little dictatorships and achieve the democratization of work.
Most cynics will say I’m romanticizing and in the past I wouldn’t had much to make my case, but things are changed by now...
“Semco has no official structure. It has no organizational chart. There’s no business plan or company strategy, no two-year or five-year plan, no goal or mission statement, no long-term budget. The company often does not have a fixed CEO. There are no vice presidents or chief officers for information technology or operations. There are no standards or practices. There’s no human resources department. There are no career plans, no job descriptions or employee contracts. No one approves reports or expense accounts. Supervision or monitoring of workers is rare indeed... Most important, success is not measured only in profit and growth.” - Ricardo Semler
At Semco the only official corporate manual
is just an illustrated surviving guide. Sounds familiar... sort of having a philosophy instead of plans
. But is better that you see this by yourself, so be prepared to be transported to the MIT for an hour of a 9 degree earthquake
on everything you think you know about management.
Leading by omission, Ricardo Semler’s talk at MIT
I think this is quite unforgettable but, beside it proves it can be done, you need to remember that the hard part is in finding how it can work in your culture and in your company. The good news are these:
all this is based on the anthropological experience among the tribes of coworkers, customers and providers and
that fact suggests that it’s eventually replicable in every possible culture.
Of course this blew my mind and I’m having all this in mind for flowing
and the products
we develop but this is way
more important than that. We see this as a matter of citizenship:
working on the reverse engineering of the demilitarization of work in order to redesign it would make you a better citizen by definition.
Unless, off course, you can sleep well accommodated with the current democratization of action’s alternative.
But I wanted to share this just because it matters to us
and I don’t have an agenda for the status quo
Brazil is such an interesting culture. Of course you’ll hear about the classics: futbol (soccer), carnival, Rio, beautiful beaches and people but none of those are game changers except this one.
At the moment, in my mind’s eye, this is probably the most valuable cultural legacy from Brazil to the world.
Workplace Democracy on Wikipedia
Maverick, the success story behind the wolrd’s most unusual workplace Book
The Seven Day Weekend Book
Other videos on the subject:
How to run a Responsible Society
A visit to Semco
Lumiar - an innovative school designed with all this in mind