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Archive for August, 2009

‘Physical laws, rules of behavior, contracts, schedules, deadlines, professionalism, org charts, and management practices are all types of connections. They all are attempts to control not only the object of the connection but also the nature of the connection itself. Why? Because they promise control over the two things we fear most: the vicissitudes of our world and the passion of our selves. As a manager armed with a theory and the latest business book, I not only know what to do, I know who to be.’

– David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto Chapter 5 – The Hyperlinked Organization

A Manager

The fifth chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto entitled The Hyperlinked Organization is certainly revolutionary. Reading it has made me realize how very traditional I still am – well, compared to what the author suggests. After being bombarded everywhere by new social media for the past few years, I thought that by now, I have accepted everything it has to offer and entails. However, the author of this chapter, David Weinberger, presents us with some ideas which I find quite difficult to accept as they deal with some of the things that have been drilled into my system – and I suppose many others, too – ever since we could remember.

VS Deadlines

‘If not living by deadlines is unrealistic, it’s just as unrealistic to think that a motivated group of people, working hard, will get things done by a particular moment just because you set that moment as the endpoint.’

Deadlines

Well, we have lived with all kinds of deadlines all our lives. Our parents set the time when we should be home. Our teachers and professors give us deadlines for the submission of our requirements. We have set deadlines for ourselves regarding the stuff that we do. And during my very brief stint with the corporate world – also known as my internship – the one common dialogue among almost everyone (well, aside from those at the bottom, which would be us interns) is ‘I need that by _____.’

Given that, I imagine that it would be very long before people in general – even managers – would be able to embrace Weinberger’s ideal although I must say that I see some truth in thinking that the setting of a deadline is a weapon used by managers to feel powerful. I can’t deny that deadlines are ways to measure productivity and I really can’t imagine (especially as a business person involved in communication) businesses – even individuals – living without them.

Still, life would certainly be less stressful without them. And I kinda have a lot of stress inside me. But hey, a girl can hope.

VS Professionalism

‘The decentralization of time creates other ripples. When you allow people to control their own schedules, they don’t always cut their day into clean work and nonwork time periods. Their personal lives begin to invade Fort Business. They know that even if they leave for an hour for the Good News Assembly at their child’s elementary school, they still can get done what needs doing, even if it means working at home over the weekend.’

Professionalism

Allow me to recall my internship – in which there were days when there was nothing to do at all during the early afternoons, but I had to stay for the sake of the hours and wait for the huge bulk of work to arrive by 5 pm. Those times were the hardest – as I have to pretend every time someone important passes by my desk that I was doing something. It was unavoidable to check my personal e-mail and some other personal stuff during such times although I do tend to avoid looking at friends’ pictures as it is very obvious from a mile away. One of the employees said it was AIDS – Acting as If Doing Something. And like having the disease, it was very difficult to have this kind of AIDS as well.

I consider myself professional – well, I strive to be so at least. And when I’m not acting as such, I feel very guilty. Well, after reading what Weinberger has to say, I feel quite justified. We can’t all be perfect and we’re not a bunch of robots managers can program to their liking to create the feel of the perfect workplace where everyone’s working when they really aren’t doing anything.

VS Hierarchy

‘Org charts are pyramids. The ancient pharaohs built their pyramids out of the fear of human mortality. Today’s business pharaohs build their pyramidal organizations out of fear of human fallibility; they’re afraid of being exposed as frightened little boys, fallible and uncertain. To be human is to be imperfect. We die. We make mistakes.’

Organizational Chart

Well, I remember quite clearly how I looked at the top of almost every organizational chart and hoped to be there someday. Weinberger has certainly made me think of the vulnerable side of every executive or manager. But among the these things I’ve listed, I suppose this would be the most difficult paradigm to shift. Every organization has a list of officers, or at least there were a group of people who started bringing people together to form the organization – and these are the people at the top. The ones who have the say, the bigger bucks and offices. And to ask these people to remove the hierarchy will be quite a challenge.

The Hyperlinked Organization

‘You see, the hyperlinks that replace the org chart as the primary structure of the organization are in fact conversations. They are the paths talk takes. And a business is, more than anything else, the set of conversations going on.’

Hyperlinked Organizations

The image above is how a hyperlinked organization would look like. People having conversations. And conversations can only be made among equals and without the fear of being wrong. Which is impossible in an organization with hierarchy.

Deadlines, rules and the hierarchy has emerged from a manager’s mindset that employees are lazy and need to be pushed to perform well. Such a thought is quite a disillusionment to me. Because if so, why all the efforts to motivate and engage employees to make them satisfied and productive if at the end, they would still be subjected to all these ‘weapons’ as Weinberger calls them?

To become a hyperlinked organization based on conversations, a manager has to think of his / her employees as an equal – not exactly in terms of skills and abilities – but that they both want the best for the organization and would work hard for it without being threatened to do so.

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