Casper’s eleventh law of the enterprise states that:
A shared set of tasks ensures the existence of an enterprise.
A shared set of ideas ensures the evolution of an enterprise.
A shared set of beliefs ensures the revolution of an industry.
Broadly speaking I have observed that most organizations progress through 3 stages of maturity as they grow and define their identity.
The first stage revolves around a collection of shared tasks. This mentality is primarily concerned with breaking business goals down into small, discrete units of work that can be assigned to any employee to complete.
A shared tasks mentality can be represented as nothing more than a equation. Units of work take a certain amount of hours/employee to complete. Once broken down into small enough chunks, gantt chart generators can do the rest, assigning the correct hour/employee to the correct task/hour to achieve success.
While seemingly efficient, the shared tasks mentality represents a very low level of enterprise self awareness. It manifests itself as simply doing what it takes to bring in the billable hours or mark tasks as complete on a gantt chart. Either you have so little invested in the work that you are doing that you simply don’t care as long as you get paid, or it starts to feel like a soul sucking death march towards someone else’s promotion.
The next step moves towards a set of shared ideas. It is actually very easy to see if your enterprise has taken this second step. Turn your company coffee mug so you can view the logo, open up an email from HR with the company signature on it, keep the group policy enforced windows desktop background visible on your other monitor, and position yourself so you have a good view of any slogans written on the wall. Ready? Can you see any of the following words: accountable, transparent, innovative, caring, catalyst, defining, agile, efficient, supportive or compassionate? If so, then your enterprise has made the first steps towards a set of shared ideas.
I remember the first time I overheard someone say “doing this is in line with our company pillar of compassion” as they were arguing their case. I had a wry smile on my face, because I knew full well that dropping the shared idea of compassion into a conversation was far more about winning an argument than it was about actually upholding the ideals of compassion. I also knew the person on the other end of the phone was playing similar word games, with similar disinterest in the actual ideals that they were arguing about.
But later on I came to realise that the language of these shared ideas will only manifest themselves in action when people regularly incorporate them into their enterprise vocabulary. So even if your only interest in the shared ideas is to allow you to make a more powerful argument, over time that process will transform glossy words in a brochure into the bedrock that supports the company.
Should the shared ideas established by an enterprise take root in employee’s decision making processes, a lucky few will take the third step into a shared set of beliefs. An enterprise whose employees share a common set of beliefs is as unstoppable a force as has ever been created by mankind. These enterpises are full of people who will will move mountains to create the best product or service that they can, and they will do it with a smile on their face and happiness in their hearts.
There is a simple test that you can do to judge your enterprise’s stage of maturity.
Do those in charge regularly ask to see the minute details of their employees’ activities? This might include hourly reports or specific information on small details of a project. If so, you are probably working for a company that demands and celebrates the mediocrity of a shared tasks mentaility. The reality is that you can’t show things like innovation or compassion in a JIRA ticket. What you can show is how a task was broken down, assigned and resolved, and how many hours it took. And this kind of task breakdown is exatly suited to satisfying the micromanagement tendencies of a shared tasks management style.
From the Forbe article Employee Productivity Declining: Who Is To Blame?:
Productivity in today’s business world means something new. It’s not focused on just zero-defect proficiency. It’s not focused on just perfectly managed minutes of the day. Productivity in today’s world must focus on adaptation, innovation and forward progress.
Or do those in charge honestly ask whether their employees are engaged with the company’s goals and beliefs, and what they can do to improve their employee’s happiness? This is the kind of maturity found in a shared beliefs enterprise. Viewing progress as a result of the hard work of motivated and happy employees over the efficient allocation of hours/employee will bring the kind of results that no amount of micromanagement will ever achieve.