Though my body is a bit sore, achy, and run down from SharePoint Conference affectionately known as #SPC14, I am writing this blog post absolutely rejuvenated. I have to tell you, I am very excited about this blog series that this post is starting, thus the Forward in front of the title. The keynote speakers at the conference had similar messages from very different perspectives. However there was one underlying truth which was centered on people. I am writing this from my perspective that has shaped over the years. I am going to write this and the following blog posts within this series with a positive spin. Of course I will write the negatives as well or we will be “doomed to have history repeat itself”. In time I would like the momentum of this blog series begin to propel itself forward as you, the reader, begin to perhaps see the value in Bringing Humanity Back into Business.
Observations over the years
It is only fair to bring to you observations I have made over the years. I have lived only in a handful of places in this great country I call home, United States of America. I have had the opportunity to “people watch” cultures from all over the globe as I have worked at both Walt Disney World Florida and Universal Studios Florida. A lot of different events have happened over my life time that were significant changes to the world. The end of the cold war, the tearing down of the Berlin wall, two wars in the Middle East, war on terrorism are just a few I am rattling off from my head.
During my teens, I can remember listening to Ronald Regan about this thing he called the “Trickle Down Theory”. As you know, this theory was just that, a theory. It didn’t work out as intended. Over the years I have continued to watch good financial policy and not so good financial policy come from Washington D.C. I really believe Regan’s theory could have worked, but there was a new breed of worker that roared onto the scene in the late 80’s early 90’s. I have to say before I continue, I know no one thing can completely change a theory, or the financial well-being of a country could be tripped up by just one source. BUT I do believe the observation that will follow was greatly influenced by this new breed of worker. At this time, the new breed of worker was known as Yuppies and DINKS (Double Income No Kids). They were strong, they were dedicated, and they were driven in making their mark on business. They were heads down, no distractions get to the goal type of people. They were successful. Wildly successful in some cases and at the time no one ever thought what long term impact the changes they had brought would make on the working world.
Here are several things they did then of which we are now feeling the effects of today. They worked long, long hours. (After all they could, considering both could work and kids were rarely in the plan.) They sterilized business. No, sterilized is not a good enough word. Mechanized. Business became very mechanical. It was all logical, bottom line driven, no room for error as the market became even bigger (if that’s even possible) than it had been in the past. It worked, perhaps too well. Remember how I started the last paragraph about one of the most used theories for comedians worldwide? (I am referring to the Trickle Down Theory) Ronald Regan came up with this theory because he felt that every American would think/believe like he did. That Americans would watch the back of fellow Americans and for the most part he is right. (Case in Point: This country pulled together after 9/11 like we had not seen for some time.) When it comes to a mechanized, completely logical business world, which cannot work. Logic would see this theory as a way to increase the profit margins, thus driving up the bottom line. I would wager (this is not factually based, but due to the complete failure of the Trickle Down Theory I feel it’s safe to say) a vast majority of the companies that were in business at this time did not trickle even a little, if any, of that money to the front line workers. Again, why would they when it would improve the bottom line, it would not be logical. Even I can understand that this would not make sense when you talk pure business logic.
Fast forward to today, 2014. There has been more than enough time for the effects to make themselves much more apparent. Just like in drug commercials where they are fixing one problem, but the side effects are usually worse than the problem they are fixing? (Again, content used by many comedians.) Here are the side effects from the observations I have shared with you above. You are going to see them fall like dominos as I explain.
Loss of identity as a worker. This is the first domino. Many businesses became bigger, and as they became bigger the idea of a business owner knowing the name of every person in his company disappeared. People were nothing more than a number. Being part of Generation X (yeah the first unnamed generation) I can remember even in high school us fighting to be known for who we were as individuals. In fact as one of the graduates of the Class of ‘89, our class motto was “Not just another brick in the wall.” (From Pink Floyd: The Wall) Again, when working with pure logic from a business perspective, there is no need for being recognized as an individual. We should know that we are contributing to the greater good… right?
Crash. The second domino begins to fall. Loyalty to the employee is lost. This took some time, but it certainly happened. Due to the fact employees became a number, not a friend or one of the “family”, there were no emotional ties to those employees anymore. When there is no emotional attachment, there is no sense of investment in those individuals either. Over time, though I am sure many will argue this next statement with me, employees became nothing more than a tradable commodity. Every employee had a “price tag” (pink slip) attached to their shirt/blouse collars. If the bottom line was in danger, lose some of the pink slips to make amends and fix the “disastrous” situation. Now I know what you are about to say, so let me head you off at the pass. (Wow that was so cliché.) There is absolute need for layoffs and such to happen, I completely understand that. The way layoffs are just thrown around and used now a days, indicates it has become the easier path than finding an alternative solution.
One more domino just to ensure I have made my point. Boom. Loyalty to the employer is no longer there from the employee. There may be some, but comparatively to the 1940’s not even close to what it was. Back then when you got a job, you would most likely hold that job to the end of your working career. Even my father, worked for Massachusetts Electric until the day he retired. Yes, it was bought near the end of his career by National Grid, but he stayed on until his retirement. Back then they could hold their resume on one piece of paper. Today if you can’t fill out two pages for a resume you are looked at as “someone who must have been living under a rock”. Job hoping is the norm. The phrase “why should I stick around until they lay me off,” most likely the driving factor to this scenario.
In conclusion to my observations, as you can see, I feel business has become mechanized. Business has no “soul”, just the stalwart pillar of logic. If you work for or own a company that these statements are not true, GREAT! I hope you participate in this blog series. I am not sure how many of you watched the movie “Tommy Boy”. The part of the movie (no it’s not a spoiler alert) I really loved was when both employer and employee backed each other up. The sense of loyalty was palpable. People are business, never the other way around. If you take care of the people, the bottom line will be the side effect in a much more positive light. Your employees will feel valued, loyalty will slowly be built up with the lost trust (so many dominos I have not even spoken on), and the quality of work will go up, and so on. Am I oversimplifying this? Yes, but there is so much other things in our life that are complicated, I think going back to the basics may be a breath of fresh air.
What to Expect from this Blog Series
If you have not felt through the words I have been typing how I feel, let me tell you. I feel extremely passionate about this. Those of you who have met me at conferences, events, school, church, etc. you know about the passion I have. For those of you I have not yet met, I would love to meet you and hear your story and be able to share the same passion. Work for most is inevitable, but if it is something you enjoy to do and you feel that it’s a safe haven, your life could be so much richer and happier. With this blog series I am going to start with the world that I am very comfortable in, but hopefully spiral outward beyond its walls. I have not hidden the fact I love the SharePoint community, nor will I. We are a very unique community where we have CEO’s rubbing shoulders with 3rd party developers who are mingling with Microsoft MVP’s who are… You get the picture. The SharePoint community has and continues to pull together and share ideas and stories and knowledge much more freely than other communities I have been a part of in the past. I feel this is what is right, or at least on the right track. People matter. Relationships matter. I know it goes beyond the “walls” of this community, I just needed a place to start where I feel I have the ability to “spread my wings.”
Once I have gathered data (and confidence), I will go beyond the walls of the community. I know I am not the only one that wants to see humanity come back to business. I plan to then go to clients and other businesses who are willing to share how they are trying to reach this common goal. Again, once I get some more data, I would like to reach out to the individuals. By this time it would have most likely outgrown a blog format and become a community site or page.
Next Friday I will be starting with the company I work for. Jornata LLC has been kind enough to back me up on this endeavor and will be the cornerstone to this series. I will be asking each week about five questions that are geared toward how they are bringing humanity back to business. The trigger that was a catalyst for this series started a year ago by Microsoft. They started a program called Business Critical SharePoint (BCSP). When I heard of it, my mind went in this direction even though it was geared more to drive business. When talking with the participants to this program over the course of the SharePoint Conference about this series all of the companies were happy to assist.
I look forward to you visiting this series as time continues to fly by.