Future Trends in Organizations According to Charles Handy

Jul 31, 07


This Month
Feature Article
Future Trends in Organizations According to Charles Handy

Further Reading
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This Month

Thank you for continuing to read our newsletter despite the sporadic issues. Earlier, when the monthly issues were regular, there was a self-imposed pressure to bring it out on time, whatever the demands on time. Once I slipped, I realized it was easier to keep skipping an issue and harder to stick to the monthly deadline. Like much in life, if we set a standard we do reach it else it is easy to lose focus. I hope to make it regular once again.

This issue highlights some areas from Charles Handy’s autobiography, “Myself and Other More Important Matters” that allow us to reflect about future trends in organizations and personal choices and values. Most importantly, through sharing his own experiences, he makes us reflect on what we should be valuing, such as, “Why do we need such big organizations, when most of us don’t relish working in them? Why do we treat those in them in the ways we do? Why do we live our lives as we do? Success has many faces. Why do we choose the ones we do?”

Be sure to look up the articles for “Further Reading”. While not connected directly with the book, they offer some reflection points and in one case, a counter point.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes,

Future Trends in Organizations According to Charles Handy

“The office of the future will often be more like a traditional city club”
“Does office space need to be built the way it is now?”Rows and rows of cubicles (personalised by the individuals inhabiting that space) in the centre and rooms adjacent dedicated as meeting rooms and rooms for senior management are hardly places to spark innovation and build teams of high energy and involvement!

Businesses invest a lot of money into office space. Yet, its usage is only for a maximum of twelve hours and hardly over the week-ends! With current use of technology and emphasis on work-life balance and awareness of the importance of physical surroundings, should not office space be redesigned for the new ways we work and interact?

Charles Handy questions whether “we have imprisoned ourselves in the spaces of the last generation.” and believes that “The office of the future will often be more like a traditional city club”. Just like a club that is open to members and offers its facilities such as dining, discussion, library, and other facilities to its members.

He compares professions such as teachers, actors, professional sports people who have a common room or share a dressing room but no separate space for themselves.

“In a looser flexible world of work, both space and time are up for grabs” “There is no need for us or anyone to live by the formula that suited the agricultural age.”
We need organizations to adapt “chunking their lives in untraditional ways” as organizations move towards the 24/7 concept of work day. As a colleague quipped, “work from anywhere actually means work from every-where”.

“In the ideal world, the allocation of the 132 days off and 233 (if you were to include the week-ends and about 28 days of paid leave and public holidays) days of work should be the joint choice of employer and individual” and employees should be able to slice up “those 132 days any way you like”

“We should not be imprisoned by the patterns of the past but design our use of both to suit ourselves, whether we are organizations or individuals. It brings more of life under our own control.”

While organizations are trying to introduce flexi-time, sabbaticals, time to pursue your interests, we are still at the tinkering stage and are not yet rocking the boat too much. If a meeting needs to be arranged, would be a 8.00 pm to 11.00 pm in a 24 hour period be too much to ask for, if the evening or afternoon is yours to spend with your family?

Organizations are “living communities of individuals” and “A business is, properly, a servant of society of which owners are a part but not necessarily the main part.”
Charles Handy believes that the essential task of leadership is to combine the aspirations and needs of individuals with the purposes of the larger community to which they all belong. “It is important to treat people, even those at the lower end of organizations as professionals, people with recognized skills and talents”.

He questions terms such as Human Resources, manage, manager that are used in organizations. He compares organizations to theatre, which too, works with professionals. Every-one connected to the programme is acknowledged and should theatre companies label ‘actors’ as ‘human resources’, no-one would work for them!

The term ‘manage’ in day to day parlance means ‘to cope’ and ‘manager’ is reserved for those in-charge of things, not people! Stage manager, Lighting manager and so on. Actors are directed and once the show in on, the cast is left alone to perform and improve if necessary. And finally, at the end of each performance, every-one gets a direct feedback from the audience, thus doing away with the annual performance appraisal.

He also sees a future where organizations will need to act in the wider interest of society and less to the demands of the share-holders. He believes that the “idea that companies exist to make money for their so-called owners is slowly going out of fashion. He points to the establishment of community Interest Company (CIC) in UK as legal entities. “This allows social enterprises to own or use public assets-schools, old people’s homes, swimming pools and the like- but to guarantee that such properties will always remain in use for the public benefit.”

“My messages are a reflection of my values”
Taking us through his personal life journey, sharing with us his experiences, the choices, its consequences and what he learnt from it makes compelling reading and a desire to reflect on our personal values and what we want to accomplish in life.

“In life’s new supermarket of abundant choices of how to live and what to do, we either dither hesitantly or, again, go for the old familiar ways and habits when we could be questioning, searching, making the world work for us rather than the other way around. You cannot however choose between all those cereal packets unless you have some criterion, some way to sort out the good from the bad. It is no different in the rest of life. Without some criterion, choices just add stress.”

He shares the principle of “‘eudaimonia’ – To do the best with what you are best at”, the need to ‘re-invent retirement, especially if it can last twenty to, thirty healthy years.

Further Reading

An interview with Charles Handy
This article highlights how the concept of ‘no personal space’ failed to succeed at TBWA Chiat/Day advertising agency. “You will have private space,” declared Chiat (Former founder Jay Chiat), “it just won’t be personal space.”
a compilation of cool workplaces of today
Article from Business Week on Telecommuting
Definition of Eudaimonia
Myself and other more important matters, Charles Handy. All the quotes are from the book.

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