I am just back from the Philippines where I discussed with Philippine Scout leaders how to scale up the great work Scouts do with street Children.
Scouting is simple to understand: You make a commitment to develop into a decent person and Scouting provides the tools to do so. Street children who take drugs and participate in gang wars, know that they aren’t doing the right thing, they want to change and Scouting provides them with a ticket to a better life.
The ticket is to become a Scout. To discover that I have people who love me and care about me; to discover that I am a creation of God who is destined to a better future; and to discover that I can change my situation if I commit myself to do so.
I was speechless when I heard Jerwin tell his personal story. How he was involved in gang wars, how he smoke marijuana and how he discovered that be becoming a Scout, he could change. Now he goes to high school and next year he will go to college. What a difference!
I was also speechless when I visited the two square m home of Queenie and her family in the corner of a city park. The family had lived there since Queenie was born. Queenie is now a Scout and through education her goal in life is to get her family away from the street.
Scouting works because it gives young people the opportunity to learn life skills. It gives them hope and self esteem when they progress in the Scout programme and it makes them feel safe because they are part of something great. They are encouraged by the fact that their school principal is a Scout, their mayor is a Scout, their governor is a Scout and the vice president of the Republic (Dr. Jejomar Binay) is a Scout. Scouting is the prime leadership development in the Philippines with two Million members as it is in the rest of the world.
Here is a summary of what the King of Sweden did on the first day of the visit to the Philippines last week.
What do you think?
In tomorrow’s edition of leading Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, I have written a column about ambition, China and Europe. The point is straight-forward: The Chinese companies I work with, easily understand that successful companies in the 21st Century need to pursue a purpose beyond profit if they want to engage employees, customers, suppliers and others to work with them and even work for them.
Chinese CEOs are hungry. They are driven by a strong determination to win, not only in China, but globally, and they will win. Not because they are smarter than managers in the west, but because they work harder and because they are more hungry for success.
Therefore I am gradually selling the shares I have in big Danish companies. I simply don’t have confidence in their boards who are dominated by finance people in grey or black business suits with no purpose beyond profit. The boards tend to employ CEOs who share the same lack of purpose. It happens everywhere, in banks, in construction companies, in manufacturing and in service. And even worse, the same lack of vision and perspective is penetrating the public sector under the “New Public Management” umbrella. Just look at the lack of vision in the Danish Parliament.
I am personally neither unhappy nor depressed. Because I have the privilege to start new growth businesses with a purpose and even more importantly, I have the means to go out and make a difference beyond business (for me this is Scouting). But for Denmark and Europe, I am concerned: We are gradually eroding what our ancestors built up and we are getting poorer and poorer every day. I have enough, but this will affect a lot of Danish families who certainly do not have enough.
I invite your comments and contributions. We need them!
There is an interesting blogpost in The New Yorker where Maria Konnikova concludes that most open office environments are a failure. I share her conclusion in general, but there are ways to overcome the disadvantages of the open office! And if you can do that, there is potential for creating organizations that are far superior from what we know of today.
Here are two references, which will give you food for thought:
- UNBOSS (2012), outlines how organizations can achieve greater impact, higher growth and happier employees by defining a clear purpose and involving stakeholders (including employees) while applying a new concept for a knowledge-based organization, which has open offices and transparent communications as a prominent feature. www.unboss.com
- Revolution at Oticon A/S – a Harvard case Study which remains one of the most studied business cases in the world. The Spaghetti organization has open offices as a prominent feature.
The Oticon’s “spaghetti” organization has been featured in thousands of books and articles including Tom Peters Liberation Management. More references can be found at
The key to making an open office work for both employees and the company are:
- Design the physical environment carefully, taking into account acoustics, visual factors and indoor climate.
- Design the office layout carefully to reflect the working styles that you want to promote, and include space for both individual and group work in both silent and less silent environments.
- Design the meeting facilities so that they encourage the behaviour you want to see. At Oticon the tables were removed from most meeting rooms and there were numerous spaces for informal stadn-up meetings – of course separate from working areas to avoid people being disturbed.
- Install a working culture where employees understand an gain ownership of the rules needed to make the open office function. My experience is that open offices will only work if employees understand WHY they work in an open office and WHY certain working styles are to be preferred.
Intelligently designed open offices are great! Open offices just for the sake of open offices are a nuisence!
Comments very welcome…
Zappos – the legendary Las Vegas based retailer – takes a bold move: Bosses will go, the corporate hierarchy is out and titles are obsolete. The conventional chain of command will be substituted by a number of overlapping and self-governing “circles” with the intention to empower employees and avoid that the company becomes bureaucratic as it grows beyond today’s 1500 people.
Have you heard this before? Yes, it is UNBOSS. Zappos calls it “holacracy” and the idea is to organize work around what needs to be done instead of who should do it. Employees are assigned several roles and usually belong to more than one circle. John Bunch who is leading the transition at Zappos, notes that the change decouples the professional side of business from what he calls “the technical getting-the-job-done side”.
I am not surprised. Once companies grow, hierarchies become bureaucracies and flexibility and innovation dies. Look at any big organization you know. They are all the same!
Zappos has introduced the key aspects of UNBOSS: It has a clear purpose (excellent customer service), it engages stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers) as partners and it now introduces the UNBOSS knowledge-based organizational model. The whole thing is based on a strong set of values. Welcome on board and congratulations!
Share your thoughts including other great UNBOSS case stories. Write a comment!