We inherited a stifling top-down work world from the Industrial Age, but as it fades behind us, the emerging work world will look very different. Those who adapt will thrive. Those that don’t will be left behind.
For more than 150 years, workplaces have been dominated by heavy hierarchy, with systems designed by self-proclaimed geniuses to be run by people stripped of their ability to think and of their very humanity, who functioned as extensions of machines at work, not as human beings.
But the emerging work world will thankfully look quite different. In the Participation Age, which is already upon us, everybody is getting their brain back, and work once again is becoming a meaningful, integrated part of our lives, not something we put up with to make money.
As I shared in my TEDx talk, things are changing so rapidly that it’s possible in five to ten years, leadership structures and workplaces that look very radical today will be the norm, and this will all be a big “duh.” But for now, there is monumental resistance to the emerging work world, by those who stand to gain the most; management.
Managers fear loss of control even though companies that have already paved the way into the Participation Age are more profitable, more stable, and with exponentially lower employee turnover. The data is already in, but the late adapters are not yet convinced.
Here are three key attributes of the emerging work world.
1. Employees are becoming Stakeholders.
The Factory System needed people to leave their humanity at home and just bring the part to work that ran the machine. To accomplish this, companies (and school systems) taught people not to ask the most human of questions, “Why.” For the last 150 years, people who questioned things at work were considered insubordinate to authority, rebels who needed to be weeded out and replaced with people who weren’t asked to think.
In the Participation Age, companies are both inviting and requiring that people bring the whole, messy, creative person to work, because they have learned that when they invite everyone to participate in the building of a great company, and to share in the rewards, that both the company and the workers benefit more.
Stakeholders come to work as self-managed, self-motivated adults who want to Make Meaning at work, not just money, and are the hidden treasures of companies that want to innovate, grow and dominate in the emerging work world. Innovation won’t come from the top anymore, but from Stakeholders throughout the organization.
2. Managers are being replaced with Leaders—and a lot fewer of them.
Managers dominate with authority and control, and the more essential they are, the better they feel. They solve and decide because those two things make them irreplaceable.
Emerging companies, who believe in Stakeholders, are organizing with leaders, not managers. Leaders don’t dominate by authority and control, or focus on solving and deciding. Leaders serve others, make them successful through influence and encouragement, and most importantly train others to solve and decide. Then they get out of the way.
In the emerging work world, where people are self-managed, controlling managers are disappearing in favor of leaders who focus on making Stakeholders more successful than themselves.
3. Managed groups are being replaced with Self-Managed Teams.
These were all the rage in the 1990s, but failed miserably for two simple reasons; they weren’t encouraged to bond as human beings, and nobody got rid of the managers. “Self-managed” really just meant “I’m the manager, and I’ll give you a few more things to decide, but you still work for me.” It was a charade. Everyone was supposed to live on self-managed teams except for all the managers. The archaic top-down hierarchy was still firmly entrenched, and “self-managed teams” found it out very quickly.
In the emerging work world, where people are Stakeholders and managers are replaced with servant Leaders, truly self-managed teams are the best way to build a great, highly profitable, fast-growing company. CQIntel is one organization providing great training for teams.
Self-managed doesn’t mean anarchy or chaos. Participation Age leaders are providing vision, clarity, guidance, training, connections, resources and everything else self-managed teams need to be successful. Then they are getting out of the way and letting people make decisions that used to be made by managers, who don’t exist anymore in Participation Age companies (self-managed, remember?).
Why it matters to you.
None of us will escape the emerging work world. This is not a fad, nor is it isolated. Nor is it new (some companies have been organized this way since the 1950s). Going forward, joining the Participation Age will not be optional.
So if you like being told what to do, you won’t like the emerging work world, which is requiring that you become a Stakeholder and proactively design your own future. But Stakeholders will love it.
If you are a manager who thrives on authority and control, you will be replaced by servant Leaders who focus on making others successful and getting out of the way.
And if you don’t like being helpful to those around you, you will find self-managed teams voting you out of a job. But the majority will find work more meaningful because of the real human bond they are building with others.
Join the Participation Age.
The data is already in. Companies built around Stakeholders, Leaders, and self-managed teams are outperforming everyone around them. Soon, entrenched managers will be getting pressure from investors, high employee turnover, sagging profits, and lack of innovation to join those who are already enjoying the fruits of the Participation Age.
Come join us in the Participation Age.
Article as seen on Inc.com