The Anthropology of Work

From the blog

What Would You Say You Do Here?




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Over the past decade, Roger Martin has written prolifically about how the principles and methods of design thinking(DT) are transforming the way some companies are being managed.  Key among the insights from DT is the simple yet challenging observation that in today’s high-performance firms, top talent is almost always engaged in tangible projects with deadlines.  That is, rather than assigning employees big, fixed, and fat titles- which leads to ‘entitlement’- workers are always doing something specific, with tangible goals and deadlines.

Of course, many managers will respond by saying: “This is already how we operate.”  Odds are, though, that this is not the case.  It is much easier to manage people by placing them in a box (sometimes quite literally), with a title, a budget, and a group of direct reports, than it is to keep your people constantly engaged in meaningful projects.

Perhaps the chorus that ‘middle management is dead’ should be replacde with ‘project management has been born.’  Project management keeps projects on track, but allows workers to keep themselves on track.  Indeed, much of yesterday’s hand-holding and Dale Carnegie-style motivation become redundant.  At the end of the day, when the Bob’s come around and ask, ‘What would you say you do here,’?  you’ll be able to answer them straight away!

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