Yankee Ingenuity at the Organization Level
Let’s take a moment and recap our observations up to this point: Yankee ingenuity has been instrumental in the American success story. Its “find a way” mentality results from the rewards of W3. Its primary ingredients are imagination, passion, and courage. It works because of the freedoms won for us in the American Revolution.
In 1822 John Quincy Adams said: “Individual liberty is individual power” (empowers individuals) “and as the power of a community is a mass compounded of individual powers, the nation which enjoys the most freedom must necessarily be, in proportion to its numbers the most powerful nation.”
Adams neglects to tell us that the individual liberty that is ours is like a two-ingredient glue. It doesn’t work unless both parts are utilized in the correct proportions. The second ingredient for realizing the benefits of individual liberty is the courage to exercise it and to pursue its advantages.
The “find a way” mentality or Yankee ingenuity at the level of the individual is pretty clear. Translating that to an entire organization is a different matter. The organization environment must be one where W3 is facilitated and fostered.
Seniority and Loyalty
In an organized labor environment, seniority establishes layoff sequence, regardless of contribution, as well as certain job preference advantages and retirement plan benefits. Otherwise, all are treated alike and employment is secure, regardless of individual accomplishment or performance as long as the minimums are met and the company survives.
Seniority filled with the fulfillment of the reasons we work is golden. Seniority filled with empty TGIF drudgery is a waste. It’s like harvesting the grape skins and ignoring the sweet nutritious fruit inside or the wine or the raisins that could come later. The pursuit of seniority for the sake of seniority alone is a mistake. Some of us, after achieving some minor level of seniority, can feel secure and that we are on our way to retirement, regardless of the satisfaction level. It becomes a form of handcuffs and can blind us and prevent the pursuit of really meaningful objectives that will fulfill the promises of W3.
Thirty or forty years of mindless drudgery or fulfillment?
Each of us will place different values on the various reasons we work, probably unconsciously. Those individual values or priorities, therefore, will determine our goals in life – to be president, a green’s keeper or a member of an auto-building team. The priorities may change as we mature as latent imagination, passion, and courage may be awakened by new experiences and accumulated wisdom.
The typical dues-paying union member surrenders decisions regarding his or her workplace’s well-being to the union. In the process, many of the opportunities for the fulfillment of all the reasons we work are sacrificed. Most feelings of self-reliance, independence, and liberty are forfeited.
In modern business, loyalty is an equation. That is, both sides must be in balance or neither can exist for long
W3 achievement = enterprise mission succeeds
Enterprise mission succeeds = W3 achievement
In other words, management and the work force must each reciprocate loyalty, another benevolent cycle. It can be the electrification of the work place atmosphere where the spirit of W3 and the “find a way” mentality is pervasive. Some believe that lengthy seniority itself demonstrates loyalty. In fact, the two terms are unrelated. However, seniority is a natural and beneficial result of the equation balance.
Every enterprise strives for success; the alternative is failure for all involved. Success produces all the benefits to those involved: shareholders, customers, and employees. Enterprise success (the collective life’s work) is fundamental to progress as defined in Chapter 2. Success is achieved by individual contribution at all levels. As stated earlier, the pursuit of W3 by its people is the most powerful attribute a company can have in its quest to succeed.
The labor unions in the U.S. have accomplished the mission that created them. The workforce in the Western industrialized countries is protected and better off than ever before, having reached their current benefits plateau. Labor unions played a major role in that accomplishment.
The membership level of that plateau, however, has had a downhill slope for several decades as membership has declined substantially during that time. The “turned-on” organization, where associates or team members participate fully and realize the fulfillment of life’s work promises, is becoming a larger part of the total as the competitive landscape is transformed.
The challenge for organized labor and management today is to find the way to leverage their collective resources to provide for the fulfillment of the promises of the reasons we work for all involved. It is the next plateau and it will bear sweet fruit for all. Their executives’, managers’, and representatives’ own chosen life’s work should be directed to passionately facilitate that goal and the inevitable resulting job security and higher levels of company effectiveness. The benefits roll up from individual to enterprise to progress for humankind.