Switching Back On the Light

While the world in general seems to get tougher and more and more focused on individual power, wealth, and success – rather than the old idea of helping each other to prosperity – I thought that it could be interesting to recap and search through the memories of a long working life, listing the things that actually worked well despite being out of sync with today’s rougher working conditions.

It seems to me like the new style is, in fact, just being the pendulum swinging back towards the conditions of the beginning industrialization after having briefly touched a more humanist approach. The darkening is again becoming the goal, after many years of enlightening. The light has been switched off.


I imagine a world in which each potential employee/job seeker writes a list of tasks and conditions that would suit them – and then employers can bid in on it with an application. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the world as we know it, hence, an Utopia.

My list

General company terms:

  1. Flexible hours – if work can be done at any time, then why insist on fixed hours?
  2. Possible to work from home – gives flexibility in life and easier time management
  3. Stress free environment (not “we are always very busy” or “you thrive with tight deadlines and rapid changes in goals and conditions”)
  4. Overtime is fine, occasionally, but in general the work can be done during the hours agreed on in the contract
  5. Values: Respect for the individual + knowledge sharing
  6. No performance management – control and cooperation are rather based on dialogue and mutual assistance. Any measurements are for the purpose of understanding, not for punishing
  7. Physical surroundings suitable for the job, i.e., if car is needed there are parking spaces, if meetings are part of the job there are meeting rooms, etc.

Characteristics of the job itself:

  1. There is a defined area of responsibility
  2. Tasks cover end to end, allowing for an understanding of the value of each step and being proud of having completed it – also when several people collaborate to do this
  3. Plans are made carefully but with flexibility to allow for new understandings and learning to be utilized and new needs to be included. No panic reactions and sudden, unexplained changes of course
  4. Knowledge sharing and communication is part of the job
  5. Goals are reached through people, processes, and technique – in that order
  6. There is feedback on the work, showing that it is important to some
  7. No matter the job type and level the employee is part of a team that has a main focus on helping each other to make good decisions and, simply, to ensure a systemic approach to solving the tasks

Some features of the boss:

  1. A human being, not an archetype – the HR approach to standardizing leadership is taking away the human aspect and should be used with caution
  2. Team oriented – is helping their employees rather than commanding them, allowing them to create their own successes
  3. Coaching, but in a human way, like a colleague – not “coaching for performance”
  4. No treatment of employees as types – they are individuals and must be treated as humans
  5. No micro-management
  6. Good at filtering tasks so that employees will not be given such that are meaningless or counter-productive
  7. Ensuring the correct work environment, suitable for the tasks

The culture and colleagues:

  1. Polite atmosphere – “Good morning”, “Have a nice weekend”, holding the door, etc. makes it pleasant to be together
  2. Friendly but not intimidating – understanding that being colleagues is not automatically the same as being close friends
  3. No mocking
  4. Learning and personally developing
  5. Accountable and taking care of their duties, showing responsibility
  6. Helpful
  7. Adult people, serious about their work – but all of them individuals

Myself – what would I need to bring in:

  1. Dedication and enthusiasm (of course, in a ping-pong with the surroundings)
  2. Strategical, visionary thoughts about tasks, working place, business area
  3. Observant, analytical and improving, participating and developing
  4. Accountable and taking care of my duties, showing responsibility
  5. Flexible
  6. Helpful
  7. Another individual – broadening the scope of thinking and problem solving capabilities of the team and the company

Mix and match

Headhunters and recruiting agencies as well as internal HR departments are often a lot more focused on matching than they are on mixing – meaning, they do not appreciate the extra competencies and additional experience a job candidate may add. They are even tightening in on a few treats and mostly considering everything else as noise that should be kept out of the company.

However, the ability for an organization to adapt to changing conditions and develop a pleasant (and thereby efficient) work environment depends on mixing various experiences and competencies. It is not enough to find the “best” candidates for selected areas. An example:

I started in a new job, many years ago, where the focus was systems development based on Microsoft tools and platforms, so these skills had been asked for. However, a few days into the new job a customer asked for a Crystal Reports consultant – as I happened to know about this product too, we got the assignment and it became the beginning of a long and important collaboration with this customer around their reporting needs. Without my extra and not-asked-for skill, this would not have happened.

The switch

Can we change the job market to the reverse, as I fantasized about? Or are there good and sound reasons for not being much interested in the wishes of the employees?

Can we similarly reverse the development, the pendulum movement, to again focus on what actually works in terms of delivering what the customer’s need, which is a collaborative and both analytical and goal-oriented approach, making use of thoughts and skills of individuals, rather than on the internal power structures and bonus payments?

Is it, perhaps, just a matter of switching the light back on?


First published at LinkedIn Pulse:

The age of the dog is coming!

Leaving the past – speaking of now

It is always easy to understand the world in a historical perspective – mainly because every presumed understanding, every theory on what, who, and why, can be phrased and discussed without too much interference from the actors involved. They cannot disturb the process by adding their opinion.

Speaking about the now, on the other hand, is much more complicated. All the now-actors are, in fact, interfering with the theory directly – and with your audience and thereby indirectly with your theory.

In fact, all this interference could be said to really be the now. It consists from nothing else. We all affect each other and all decisions are made on the basis of opinions we have got from listening to each other. We act upon presumed knowledge, often in the shape of newspaper articles, Facebook updates, or simply the general way of speaking of people around us.

Speaking about the now, analyzing it, is, hence, more difficult than speaking about the past. The now has its own voice that might be louder than yours, while the past is silent and lets you speak almost unlimited (with the notable exception of what to think about and how to interpret certain events, like the acts of nazi-Germany or the thoughts of chairman Mao, or even more subtle topics like who is the “we”, for instance when talking about the colonizers that came and took “our” country, even though “we” are mostly of the colonizer-descent – in some countries there are laws against certain opinions, in other countries similar barriers for the free speech exist in the shape of a public opinion that will make life hard for the one claiming anything else than the usual).

You might say that the now is shouting and its words being accepted unconditionally by the “nowists”, those living in the now without having any considerations for how the future will interpret their acts and thoughts.

Society is building walls

So, keeping this difficulty of speaking about the now in mind, I still find it noticeable, that there is a tendency going on right now. I guess that hardly anyone of our time have failed to see how countries are enclosing themselves, building walls, keeping strangers out, as far as it goes. Nationalism seems right to a lot of people, while internationalism seems wrong to them. The pendulum is clearly moving backwards towards an isolationist world after having been very much in the internationalization end of the specter for a while, seeing all sorts of cross-country trade and political organizations dominating the picture. But now it seems clear that a lot of people do not feel that this international style represents them. They want to focus on a smaller scale, adding some racial, religious and other excluding parameters to the equation – obviously hoping to reach some kind of simplicity in their world by making it smaller, a simplicity they really need because they cannot grasp the complexities of a bigger world. They feel lost and left out and want control. Like the old saying: they want to be a big fish in a small lake rather than a small fish in a big lake.

What seems peculiar, however, is that this tendency is winning in all areas. It is not just about simplicity and understanding but even more about breaking down all the things that they believe belong to internationalism: collaboration, humanism, empathy, feelings, freedom of speech, any kind of freedom, actually, and communication. In a world that has become so profound over-communicating, lots of people react by simply stopping all communications. They watch TV and the like, getting input, and they write a lot of angry comments to the mass media feeds on social media. They are reacting, but they do not themselves express anything, just following troupe when the masses, the presumed now, are shouting – and shouting with them.

Business is building walls – or trenches?

Yesterday I could read an article, an opinion by a management consultant, saying that we are feeling too much at work. We should stop preaching this behavior and start being more professional, more cold, and stop feeling that we like our jobs – instead we should do whatever we “like” in our spare time, keeping the workplace as a transactional place: you give a certain amount of time, do the job you are asked to do and nothing more, and in return you get your salary. Don’t expect any compassion, any interest shown in you or your life, don’t expect your boss to be like a father or mother to you.

Today I could read a blog post from a freelance consultant, a programmer, who basically just said that consultants want to be left alone – no collaboration, please, just give them a task and let them do it without any interference (especially from the client). Larger tasks should be split so that each individual could work alone with their own part of it, not needing to communicate or collaborate with anyone.

The management consultant’s statements are very much in the opposite direction of what management development has been all about during the last 30 years or so. The programmer consultant’s statements are of an almost revolutionary nature. It looks like if there is some kind of radicalization and power demonstration going on – a new pressure on the workers along with revolutionary tendencies building up. But a revolution would require some kind of social sense, a feeling of being connected. What is happening now looks more like a “leave me alone”-revolution where people are trying to disconnect from the obligations of living in a society.

The nationalist tendencies in society, the wall building between countries, seems to dig deeply into the soul of every inhabitant, making them also building walls between individuals. So the revolution building up seems to be one of individuals feeling nothing for other individuals, a revolution towards anarchy.

Cats and dogs

Little noticed by most, but actually of a huge importance – a parasite has been discovered, that lives in mice, making them feel attracted to cats who then eat the mice, complete with the parasite. From the cats, humans can also get infected. And apparently a very large part of the world’s population of humans, perhaps 30%, do actually have this parasite living in them. In some countries it is twice as many.

What is special about this parasite, when it lives in people, is that it makes them softer, more social – or even more prone to display a feminine behavior, as some scientists put it.

Maybe we can thank that cat-parasite for making us fight less and treat each other in a mostly decent manner? I mean, a less social behavior, a more masculine one, according to those scientists, would lead to more fighting and less feelings, less empathy, less collaboration, less freedom… you get the picture? We have, due to that parasite, so far been prevented from radicalizing our society, which is now about to happen anyway, for some reason.

Did the parasite loose its magic? Did it die? Or could it be that there is another, competing, parasite in play – maybe a dog-parasite? Such one that makes us less social, more masculine… a parasite that for some reason is spreading and now becoming dominant, causing the old rivalry between cats and dogs to flare up and the dog mentality so far seeming to be the stronger one and, hence, taking over.

In that case, prepare for the age of the dog.

Wooden Toys is the Future – Again

Today it was announced that the Swedish toy maker Brio had been sold to the German toy maker Ravensburger. Brio is known for wooden toys, something that was on its way out ten years ago but which is now again in fashion. Computer games didn’t take over children’s world of playing entirely, as was predicted by many just a few years ago, all non-computer game production being then moved to Asia.

Now, however, the pendulum is swinging back, says Radio Sweden – classic toys are again popular and are again being produced in Europe and the USA.

Source: Toymaker Brio bought by German firm