The Human Organisation

Odd, I thought,  seeing a dog with a box tied to his collar. The owners explained that it was an “anti-barking collar”, which sprays a blast of citronella into the dog’s face every time it barks. After a while it stops barking. The owners were very happy about this, but it made me wonder, is a dog complete without a bark?


Thinking about this coming weekend’s “Responsive Organisation” event I began to ask myself whether, instead of becoming more responsive, our challenge is really to become more vocal, more human, more “complete”.

With 73% of employees “disengaged”, it seems that the most important issues many workers face are escaping drudgery, transforming relationships at work, reconnecting with each other, being more creative, playful and feeling good about what we do. Evidence shows that if we can shift towards a better quality of working life then the chances are we will become more responsive, but as a side effect rather than the main event.

In many ways, “responsive” seems pretty similar to “efficient”. Rising to the challenge of competing organisations and customers means that we would need to become more responsive and efficient. The fundamental driver (born in the tech industry) seems to be “how can we move even faster to keep up with our customers and out run our competitors?”. This approach assumes that the problem we need to solve is one of not being fast enough.

Another way to look at it is that the problem we need to solve is our acceptance of demands for more and faster. It begs the question, where does it end? What do we do when even networked organisations are just not fast enough?

Our primary goal should be to improve our quality of life generally, not just for customers and shareholders but for everyone involved in the process. The networked movement presents an invitation to be more vocal, connected, creative and free. These things are in themselves a fantastic gift and something we should embrace.

But I think the reason why it’s important to make the distinction between agility and quality as the headline goal is because there is a risk we could lose sight of what really matters in our quest to move ever faster.

Here’s a blast from the past. Can you believe that it’s almost 10 years since this TED talk?:

So I wonder, does there come a point when we would reject, or even reduce, efforts to create a happier workplace if there were no related increase in responsiveness? Or is it enough to improve the quality of our relationships and life without an improvement in responsiveness? Could we work as a network and embrace a slower pace?

Perhaps what we need to do is re-find our voices and push back a little.