How To Navigate Towards A Common Understanding And Alliance


Tuesday, 6.02am

Sheffield, U.K.

Good government is no substitute for self-government. – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s the time of year for planning and deciding what you’re going to do with life and work next year.

What should you do if you want to change things? Change something or everything about your way of life?

Well, if we start with what most people would like to have, it’s work with purpose, autonomy when it comes to how they work and mastery of what they do, a framework described by Daniel Pink.

Peter Drucker, the management thinker, wrote about self-governance in organisations.

He imagined a world where each worker takes on the job of management – takes on managerial responsibility.

And, in doing so, you take responsibility for what you and your colleagues do, for what you contribute to the “performance and results” of the organisation and for the “social tasks of the work community”.

Drucker points out that the world of work as it is now, with managers and workers is relatively recent.

And, we’re moving to a situation where freelancing and gig working is more common.

So, what can you do to position yourself for these changing times?

The starting point is to write something down.

What you are trying to do in most cases is figure out an approach that is going to work for you and someone else.

It’s not quite a negotiation because it’s quite possible that neither of you know what the end result is.

It’s more about alignment.

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, wrote in his book The Alliance about the difficulties organisations have in recruiting and keeping talent.

He says that the old work model is broken. There is no more lifetime employment, no more seeing employees as family.

You also can’t run a business where everyone is free to do whatever they want.

The solution, according to Hoffman, is to forge alliances between employers and employees.

An alliance is an understanding that the two of you are coming together for a specific purpose – to achieve something together.

Morningstar, a tomato products company, has no hierarchy or job titles. Each person agrees how they will contribute with the others that they need to work with.

The thing that is common in both Hoffman’s and Morningstar’s situations is a piece of writing that sets out how things will work.

Hoffman calls this a Statement of Alliance while Morningstar calls it a Colleague Letter of Understanding.

So, how can you go about thinking through one of these?

The place to start is with what the leaders of the organisation want to achieve.

Maybe they’re focused on growth, perhaps on culture, perhaps on both.

But they’re only going to sign up to things that they can see will add value. And value usually means something that adds to profits this year. Maybe next year, if they can see it makes sense.

The only things you should put in front of them, then, are the things you can do to help them with those jobs.

Then, it’s time for the plan.

Which pretty much comes down to some variant of objectives, activities and deliverables with a little bit of honesty and plain talking built in.

Maybe that structure is worth exploring another day.


Karthik Suresh

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