Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mission Improbable

A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance.
Gary Hamel

Only 4 in 10 workers strongly agree their company's mission makes them feel their job is important, and fewer than half feel strongly connected to their company's mission, according to a new study by Gallup.

You may not care. But Gallup research shows a compelling mission boosts profits and reduces employee turnover and on-the-job accidents.

Gallup analysts Nate Dvorak and Bailey Nelson say company leaders should:

Build a brand. Employees and customers should hear the same brand promise from leaders. The promise separates the company from rivals and makes it worthy of consideration.

Recruit purpose-driven people. High performers long to make a difference in customers' lives. Leaders should use purpose-centric recruiting ads to attract them.

Foster employee engagement. Profitability soars when the mission's more than posters in the lunchrooms. Leaders themselves should continually communicate the company's purpose, and help workers relate it to their jobs.

But why is it so hard for leaders to step up?

La condition humaine.

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre spelled out the reasons people rarely rally in his multi-volume doorstopper,
Critique of Dialectical Reason:
  • Even when part of a group, Sartre says, people normally live lives in lonely crowds. He calls life in the primordial group the life of the seriesWhile they work toward one goal (boarding a bus, for example), people in a series don't share common bonds or act in concert. It's every faceless, interchangeable man for himself.

  • While the series is the primordial group, it's not the only one. When people in a series are threatened, they form an organic and spontaneous group Sartre calls the fused group. Everyone in a fused group rows in concert of his own free will; everyone trusts and inspires his fellows; and everyone's a leader. (Think of the French Resistance, for example.)

  • When the outside threat diminishes, Sartre says, fused groups either disband or ossify. If the latter, they become organizations. People in an organization take the "pledge" to watch out for each other. But the pledge doesn't mean the group members won't seek to fulfill their own self-interests first. In fact, they usually do. (Think of any labor union.)

  • To discourage members of an organization from "taking care of Number 1," leaders eventually emerge who put constraints in place. Sartre calls this "degraded" spinoff of the organization the institution. Institutions work to make sure to every member knows he's a cog that can be easily replaced. (Think of any of today's corporations.)
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