Part IV: What do You Want in the First Place?

Chapter List

Chapter 15: What Do We Really Want? A Manifesto for Organizations of the 21st Century
Chapter 16: Building a New Social Contract at Work: A Call to Action
Chapter 17: Retreat of the Firm and the Rise of Guilds: The Employment Relationship in an Age of Virtual Business
Chapter 18: Unexpected Connections: Considering Your Employees' Personal Lives Can Revitalize Your Business
Chapter 19: Innovating Our Way to the Next Industrial Revolution

If we are to invent the organizations of the twenty-first century, we must have some sense of what kind of organizations we want. The next section focuses on this issue by going beyond the purely economic calculus that has dominated the business world in recent years. These chapters reflect on what values are important to us and examine how our business organizations and our work in business can contribute to advancing those values.

The section begins with a "manifesto" prepared by a working group of Sloan faculty members titled, "What Do We Really Want?" This manifesto calls for future organizations to be sustainable across three key dimensions: social, personal, and environmental. It goes on to suggest that achieving such sustainability may require organizations to track a broader range of performance metrics than the bottom line and be responsive to a larger group of constituents than shareholders alone. The manifesto concludes with examples of new ideas developed by 21st Century Initiative researchers that have the potential to move future organizations closer to the envisioned sustainability. These include new kinds of "guilds" for temporary workers and independent contractors; accounting metrics that weigh the social value companies create; and efforts to integrate, as opposed to balance, work and personal life. The articles in the rest of this section explore several of these specific ideas in more detail.

The next two chapters focus on how to retain the economic efficiencies of the new organizational forms, while still providing some of the stability and security workers received under the mid-twentieth century corporate system. In the industrialized world, the adoption of information technology resulted in a growing demand for highly-skilled labor, a process that has exacerbated income inequality. And more volatile organizational patterns have eroded the traditional employment contract. So there is a keen need to create new institutional structures to ensure that twenty-first century business organizations are socially sustainable. The two chapters outline two related approaches to this problem.

The chapter by Thomas Kochan calls for rebuilding the kind of social contract that existed in the post-World War II era. Recognizing that the economic underpinnings of the old contract have eroded, he advocates building a new safety net to meet the economic realities of our time. Kochan envisions a role for the traditional workplace actors—employers, labor, and government. But he also sees an expanded role for what he calls "labor market intermediaries"—organizations that work across firms to provide placement, training and career development services. Many kinds of organizations are active in this realm—professional associations, branches of traditional unions, private temporary agencies and recruiting firms, regional consortia of employers, public training programs, Internet-based job and career information services. These intermediaries are especially well positioned to help workers navigate the more fluid careers that are likely to be prevalent in the twenty-first century.

Kochan also calls for innovative forms of employer-worker partnerships, including creative in-firm approaches to meeting workplace regulations. And he sees potential for government playing a constructive role in a variety of new ways— providing worker education and training; revamping employment law to enable more flexible forms of representation; and support for the creation of a new set of labor market institutions for the twenty-first century. Kochan concludes with an example of the kind of collaboration that will likely be required to reconstruct a viable social contract for workers in the future. He describes an innovative cooperative effort in the Boston area in which employers, unions, academics, and church leaders all came together to develop workplace guidelines and policy proposals to address work-family concerns (see Osterman, Kochan, Locke, and Piore 2001).

The next chapter, by Robert Laubacher and Thomas Malone, explores the potential of a new kind of labor market intermediary of the sort Kochan describes. This article focuses on the growing number of workers who operate outside the traditional employment relationship as independent contractors, self-employed workers, or temps. To address the potential insecurity and anomie such workers can face, Laubacher and Malone propose the creation of new kinds of independent organizations—what they call guilds—to assume some of the roles formerly played by long-term employers. Guilds can provide for their members many of the things workers formerly received from their employers—economic security, health insurance, pensions, training, access to career ladders, and a sense of identity and community.

Laubacher and Malone give examples of recent experiments by existing organizations—professional associations, unions, temporary agencies, community groups—to provide these kinds of benefits to their members. They also describe several innovative new organizations founded expressly to serve independent workers. They conclude by speculating on the possible future development of guilds and outlining implications for workers, employers, policy makers, and educators.

Kochan's and Laubacher and Malone's chapters focus on the U.S., but the organizational changes that have swept through American firms are also affecting rest of world. So questions about the social contract between workers and firms must be addressed in other regions as well, taking into account unique historical and cultural factors at play in each part of the world. Thus the perspectives offered in both these articles have relevance for non-U.S. settings.

In many parts of the world, an increase in work hours, the advent of two-career households, and a more demanding business environment have led to increasingly urgent needs to integrate work and personal life in new ways. The next article, by Lotte Bailyn, Joyce Fletcher, and Deborah Kolb, addresses this important issue.

Bailyn, Fletcher, and Kolb describe a series of experiments at a large American firm, where senior management had pledged to find ways to help employees better integrate work and their personal lives (see Rapoport, Fletcher, Pruitt, and Bailyn 2001). The experiments were carried out jointly by the researchers and employees in the company. From the start, these efforts were predicated on a rejection of the traditional notion that work and personal life were inherently in conflict. Rather than seeing the situation as a zero-sum game, the people involved in these experiments asserted from the outset that it was possible to do both—to meet important business goals and, at the same time, allow workers to have the time and freedom to enjoy their personal lives.

The experiments were carried out in a variety of settings—a product development team, a call center, a sales and service unit. By moving out of the old either/or mindset, all these groups were able to develop creative solutions that achieved important business goals and also ended up providing workers with time and flexibility to attend to their personal lives. In most cases, these solutions involved simple interventions such as allowing call center workers to keep flexible schedules or structuring engineers' workdays into periods of "interactive time" and "quiet time" as a way to prevent the frequent interruptions that had been cutting their productivity.

Putting business and personal concerns on an equal footing also helped to surface some work patterns that were ineffective, but were not recognized as such until the personal lens had been turned on them. For example, members of the product development team came to realize that engineers who staged heroic rushes to finish work at the last minute had previously been seen as exhibiting exceptional commitment and were praised and rewarded by their managers. But as the experiment went on, and personal considerations came more to the fore, the team began to realize such a pattern was inefficient, more a product of poor early-stage planning and execution than an indicator of dedication.

Perhaps most importantly, Bailyn, Fletcher, and Kolb discovered that the experiments involving joint pursuit of business and personal objectives were more successful than typical change initiatives inside the firm. These efforts affected workers where they lived—in their personal lives—and so enjoyed much deeper support than other initiatives, where workers did not have so large a stake.

The final article in this section, by Peter Senge and Goran Carstadt, addresses the question of environmental sustainability. Senge and Carstadt contend that the so-called "new economy" is not new at all, but simply an extension of the industrial era's practices. A true new economy, in their eyes, would depart from the environmental profligacy of the industrial age and move toward natural sustainability.

The article shows that such a vision is not merely the province of activists at Greenpeace; it is now at top of the agenda of leading executives like John Browne of BP. These executives are driven by a belief that natural sustainability is not a burden to be evaded but a significant future business opportunity. Senge and Carsted go on to point out that achieving environmental sustainability will require a move away from the "take-make-waste" cycle that characterizes industrial production. In today's economy, only 10 percent of the matter extracted from the earth actually becomes a usable product; the remaining 90 percent is waste. And even the 10 percent made into products typically becomes waste when it is discarded. To move away from this cycle, Senge and Carsted suggest that we must look to the example of the natural world, with its pattern of produce-recycle-regenerate. A start would be reducing waste in three areas: during the production process itself; in the operation of products (for example, through design of cleaner-running cars); and recycling/remanufacturing after useful product life has ended.

Interestingly, Senge and Carsted note that achieving environmental sustainability will involve many of the organizational practices developed in recent years. In particular, firms must move from an emphasis on product sales to a focus on serviceoriented solution provision. In addition, they must learn to view employees and value chain partners as part of larger social networks with a commitment to sustainability. There will also need to be new metrics to measure business success, such as the "triple-bottom-line"accounting—which measures a firm's economic, environmental, and social impact—now being used by Shell and other leading companies.

These articles don't provide all the final answers to the big challenges of inventing organizations that are socially, personally, and environmentally sustainable. But they each set such sustainability as their objective and together present creative ideas about how to reach that end. Perhaps most interestingly, many of them involve moving beyond the zero-sum approaches to these issues that were frequently employed in the past, and instead, explore new ways to achieve outcomes that benefit everyone involved.


Osterman, Paul, Thomas, Kochan,Richard M. Locke, and Michael J. Piore. 2001. Working in America: A Blueprint for the New Labor Market. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Rapoport, Rhona, Joyce K. Fletcher, Bettye H. Pruitt, and Lotte Bailyn, eds. 2001. Beyond Work-Family Balance: Advancing Gender Equity and Workplace Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century
Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century
ISBN: 026263273X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 214

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