BOOK REVIEW & SUMMARY
The book examines the typical workplace environment visible across the business world: conservative, patriarchal and largely traditional. This type of workplace structure is provably negative and detrimental in the long run to the culture of any organization. The patriarchal system is one which is highly stratified, plagued with unnecessary bureaucracy and subject to a lot of red tapism. The hierarchical nature of most organizations leads to waning passion and drive for the company as rank and power diminish. The passion employees have is directly proportional to the post they hold. Self-serving tactics that go against the spirit of fair play and cooperation are routinely employed in organizations that have set out in the wrong direction.
Empowering managers is the main aim of the book and the authors describe the different markers to be considered on the path to workplace empowerment. Relationships must be forged and maintained in the workplace in order to create an empowering culture for both managers and workers.
The book focuses on the following points
- Office Politics
- The Bureaucratic Cycle
- The Entrepreneurial Cycle
- The Empowered Manager
The office is a microcosm of the society at large and as such every action is geared towards serving certain interests. Relationships formed in the office are vital to the growth of the organization because they influence the general culture in place. Managers must be able to navigate relationships in the workplace, and while there will always be hindrances to your management style, a compromise must be reached. You must be able to create and maintain a cordial working relationship with both your supporters and adversaries. The goal you’ve set forth for the company needs all hands on deck and as such you must carry along everyone irrespective of their personal feelings towards you. You have to be smart when confronting adversaries - you must maintain professionalism and integrity but realize that such individuals cannot be trusted.
A positive culture breeds success, creativity, and innovation, unbridled by unnecessary shenanigans. A bad culture, however, is dominated by forces of...
Every organization must decide to embrace one of two cycles. The first, the Entrepreneurial Cycle, is one which embraces the principles of...
While the Bureaucratic Cycle encourages the already outlined characteristics of a bad workplace culture.
Now to discuss these two concepts more clearly:
The Bureaucratic Cycle
The Bureaucratic Cycle is one where the individuals in an organization are kept in a highly structured and stratified hierarchical system. This system leaves no allowance for individual creativity and innovation as the fear of being reprimanded keeps such deviation from routine in check. The bureaucratic cycle is the bane of any organization that hopes to break out of mediocrity and emerge as a lasting market force.
The cycle is slowly built up over time through the actions and inactions of managers and employees in such a company.
A company that is stuck in the cycle has the following features:
- Patriarchal Contract
The patriarchal contract is one where company leaders display a domineering attitude and leave no scope for differing opinions or actions. Creative input from the middle or lower sections is not allowed and as such a sort of autocratic administration is created. The directives from above must be followed regardless of differing ideas. This form of hierarchical structure creates a passive atmosphere among workers as they have no real drive to go above and beyond in their service to the company.
- Myopic Self Interest
Due to the premium placed on promotions and commendations from upper management, employees seek to only promote their interests in a vacuum, rather than working towards the success of the company as a whole. The patriarchal contract can be considered a causative factor for this behavior as the need to move up the organizational ladder leads to the promotion of selfish interests among workers. The impersonal atmosphere of the patriarchal contract also leads to the myopic view of success as one that is individual, rather than collective. Employees do not consider the company their own and as such do not place the company’s goals above personal gratification.
- Manipulative Tactics
Relationships built in organizations in the cycle of bureaucracy are usually geared towards self-promotion and the fulfillment of a personal agenda. Individuals aim to turn every interaction in the workspace into a battle of wits with the aim of undermining colleagues. Ascending the corporate ladder regardless of means is celebrated as the end seems to always justify the means. These manipulative tactics which are not restricted to;
a) Partial/nondisclosure of relevant information and data to colleagues
b) Manipulating relationships to aid your own goals.
c) Nepotism: Currying favor from superiors and granting certain workers special privileges
d) Failure to coordinate upcoming plans with colleagues
These are all detrimental to the collective health of the company. Manipulation can bring individual success but it eats into the fabric of the organization and destroys trust.
Due to the nature and structure of such organizations, autocratic and burdened by red tape, there is no room for innovation and creativity. Talented employees are wary to think outside the box or disobey orders due to the threat of reprimand from management. This leads to a workplace that becomes routine and unimaginative. Permission is needed for even the most mundane acts and revolutionary ideas are canned before they go further. Due to the constant need for validation from superiors, efficiency and productivity simultaneously drop. The passion and drive needed to contribute to the growth of the company are derailed and marched upon by the autocratic nature of the workplace.
The cycle of bureaucracy is the antithesis of any great organization and as such should be broken and replaced by a more engaging routine.
The Entrepreneurial Cycle
The direct opposite of the cycle of bureaucracy, this system of organizational management encourages a more positive work environment. A culture of inclusion is ingrained deep within the mindset of all workers and as such there is no fear of management by workers. This directly leads to a better, more productive work place.
The Entrepreneurial Cycle has the following markers:
- Entrepreneurial Contract
The opposite of the patriarchal system. This concept preaches that managers must make employees feel like they are part owners of the organization to drive their passion. Collective brainstorming is encouraged in such a system and ideas and opinions are considered before decisions are made.
- Enlightened Self Interest
Employees have a bigger interest in the organization due to the improved relationship with management. The goals of the company become the same as the individual’s goals, eliminating the need for selfish actions. The success of the company equates success for the employees.
- Authentic Tactics
There is a distinct absence of negative or self-serving tactics in the workplace. Everyone works towards a common goal - the betterment of the company. Relationships between employees become more organic and good-natured; There is a genuine concern for coworkers and this goes a long way in boosting workplace culture and creating a positive atmosphere.
Workers are given the room to express their creativity and this allows the introduction of innovative actions. Unlike the cycle of bureaucracy where permission and validation are required for basic actions, workers are allowed to work freely within the established framework. Micromanagement is eliminated and productivity multiplies manifold. Autonomy in the workplace encourages workers to go above and beyond as their passion is unbridled by red tape.
The Empowered Manager
The path to empowerment entails going through the three earlier aspects of the book...
- Identify the damning politics taking place in the office and getting rid of it
- Realize the danger of the cycle of bureaucracy and the harm it does to the culture at the organization
- Institute an entrepreneurial cycle, one that encourages workers to work to their maximum potential, free to express their opinions and creativity.
However the above is not all that is required to becoming empowered. There are more poignant points:
Create A Vision
Establishing a vision you desire for your company is paramount.
When creating such lofty goals and objectives you must apply the following points...
- Do not place limits on your expectations. Consider your vision the end game and do not let present limitations drive your future goals.
- Have clear and expressive goals. Your vision must be pervasive and not ambiguous. Both outsiders and employees within your organization must be able to understand and buy into your mission.
Build A Support Base
To make your visions a reality, you must employ the human resources at your disposal towards reaching such goals.
Every organization can be classified into five different classes of people depending on your inclinations (you must deal with each differently and with varying degrees of trust)...
Aligned with your vision and easy to work with. They command the highest level of mutual trust.
Have a differing method or objective but still are trustworthy since they put all their cards on the table.
Aligned with you as long as your interests match. Be wary of such people.
- Fence sitters:
Not willing to take a stand, for or against. They should command a low level of trust since they are not committed.
Opposed to your vision and methods. Command the least amount of trust in the workplace
These different classes must all be interacted wit since they all serve their roles in ensuring your goals come to light. We want to be empowered but not at another’s expense. Therefore, it is your job to discover the best way to interact with and exploit your relationships with them.
- Acts of Courage
It takes an empowered manager to carry out some of the actions necessary for a change of culture in an organization. Uprooting the status quo of the cycle of bureaucracy and replacing it with a more liberal entrepreneurial stance takes courage. Other actions that are a must towards the attainment of absolute empowerment include –
- Taking responsibility for failures
- Giving an honest, unbiased assessment of facts and situations
- Eliminating personal agendas and alignment of self-interest with the larger goals of the company
Any manager who is able to create a vision that is welcoming and inclusive of even adversaries and opponents is on his way to empowerment and that will pay off with regards to organizational goals in the long run.
The path to empowerment means the eradication of the negative politics that has deeply permeated the current workspace. As a manager, you must be willing to let old systems die out and introduce a better, more inclusive system that carries employees along as partners, rather than lesser beings. Bureaucracy only serves to kill innovation as employees work with a fear of reprimand if they deviate from the norm. An entrepreneurial mindset is essential to boost any organization’s productivity and culture. Adapt positive political skills and watch your company transform for the better.