We face an exciting challenge: to reimagine corporate cultures and create workplaces fit for the modern world and the expectations of our colleagues.
Many organisational behaviours still reflect elements of the industrial-era ‘machine paradigm’ that saw the organisation as an efficient machine made up of many components – human and mechanical – all carrying out specific individual functions under the exacting supervision of management. On this model, the more machine-like human beings could be, the better.
This organisational model took hold, especially, during the Second Industrial Revolution – the remarkable era around the beginning of the twentieth century that saw the birth of many iconic and enduring corporations: Ford, General Electric, Kellogg’s, Boeing, General Motors… It’s hardly surprising that the organisational model adopted by these great corporations, heavily influenced by the principles of Scientific Management, has persisted to this day, even if only subconsciously.
The industrial-era organisational model is based on command and control and is steeply hierarchical. The end result of all these outmoded structures and behaviours is that employees feel disengaged and purposeless – ‘like cogs in a machine’. The modern era needs to rediscover elements of the craft mentality that the industrial era superseded – we expect to find satisfaction, pleasure and pride in our work; to feel that we have come together with their colleagues to create something meaningful and worthwhile, not mindlessly to complete our allotted task.
Transforming organisational culture can seem a daunting task. In My Steam Engine Is Broken: Taking the organisation from the industrial era to the age of ideas, we suggest that it is possible to change cultures ‘little by little and piece by piece’, identifying individual aspects of organisational behaviour that are part of the problem, using our model of the 10 Dimensions of Organisational Behaviour, and addressing these one by one, achieving real transformation into organisational cultures fit for the 21st century.