In grappling with organization design, company executives tend to draw on two venerable approaches, which can be characterized as the “hard” approach and the “soft” approach. . . .
Both approaches underplay the importance of individual autonomy and rationality. First, people are less likely to behave in the way we want if coerced or manipulated into such behavior than they are if the choice is their own. (And in any case, the kind of work they now generally do is not really amenable to control: in a knowledge economy, workers need to apply their own judgment rather than simply follow a set of rules.) Second, workers—being rational—act in their perceived own best interests. So, the modern approach to organization design should not be to seek control but rather to create the right context for the workforce, by aligning their own best interests with the mission of the organization. Once that context is suitably conducive, the workers will change their behavior of their own accord and will act together, as a team, to carry out the organization’s mission.
Sounds easy when someone points it out doesn’t it?
Yet it’s amazing how much of this kind of stuff there is. In the next post I’ll explain how we can move to the next level. There’s a hard approach and a soft approach …