Imagine no employers, no employees too

In my June 2008 post The evolution of the employee-employer relationship I wrote the following:

The challenge for organizations in this situation becomes not providing employees the training they need to carry out the company’s goals and projects, but rather providing employees with goals and projects that engage the employees and effectively use what they are learning for themselves.

This was in response to some things I had read at the time and was something of a follow-up to another post from April 2004, in which I wrote:

I’ve long believed that the prevalence of knowledge work in organizations today will (eventually) fundamentally shift the employee – employer relationship. In many ways, knowledge workers will come to be “self-employed” in the sense that they are working to improve themselves and to make an impact on the world at large and not just within the company they happen to be “working for” at the time.

Though I haven’t written much (at all?) about this particular aspect of thinking in bits since that 2008 post, the ideas are never far from my the front of my mind. It is hard not to think along these lines as I wonder about the future of work. Not just for me, but for my kids, and for the people with whom I work every day. Even within an organization, there is a certain amount of this, where HR acts as the “agent” and the employee moves about inside the organization based as much on their own needs and desires as the organization. (If, that is, they are lucky enough to work in an organization that “gets it”.)

b9fhxmdwI closed that 2004 post with the thought, “This obviously raises some interesting questions for organizations….

Some interesting questions that Stephen DeWitt is working on answering. Here’s a description of what DeWitt is doing as CEO of Work Market, from the article/interview A Total Rethink of How Work Should Work:

In short, Work Market hopes to instrument a wholesale rethinking of how work gets done in our society — from a world of traditional corporate employment to a world where every skilled worker can act as an enterprise of one.

Or, to look at it another way, where an organization consists primarily of management and the workforce is “on demand”. Where the focus is not on building, growing, and sustaining a large organization but on doing the work, creating value, getting shit done. Where each member of the team can contribute their expertise – whether it be financial, management, technical – and all benefit from the arrangement. On their own terms.

More flash team than gig economy, where the labor is not a commodity but where each participant competes based on skills, past projects, reputation, etc etc. All those things that in the past would have led to promotions and raises and bonuses will now lead to more work, higher rates, and more choice in the work you accept.

Obviously, there is much more to it or it would already be the norm. There are examples of where it is working and organizations who are using it, but it will be many years before it is more widespread. And, of course, the transition will not come without pain, without costs, without some collateral damage to the workforce and organizations who are not able, or interested, in making the change.

Are you ready to be an “enterprise of one”?

Arkansas marble and the Boone County Caravan Spring

In the aftermath (afterglow?) of the recent US elections I’ve been giving some thought to discussions about rural America that have been bouncing around. I drove through quite a bit of this ruralness on my way to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch this past weekend for a climbing trip with friends. Don’t worry, I didn’t think too much about all this while we climbing. But we did have some good conversation around the campfire.

On my drive home from the Ranch yesterday I decided to stop at a couple of historical markers along Highway 7. I’ve driven this road several times, and have seen the signs for the markers, but had never stopped before. Here’s what I found.

Arkansas Marble

arkmarbleThe first marker at which I stopped was a commemoration for the Arkansas marble used in the Washington Monument.

This marker commemorates the Arkansas marble in Washington’s Monument, taken by Beller and Harp bros. from this hill in 1836. This marker erected in 1954 by Newton Co. History Society.   W.F. Lackey Pres, Manda Hickman Sec.

A quick Google search (Arkansas marble Washington Monument) returned some great sites and information about the stone, the Washington Monument, and even the roadside marker itself.

Boone County Caravan Spring

boonecocaravan

The other marker at which I stopped on my journey was a commemoration of a much less successful journey from the mid 19th century.

Near this spring, in September 1857, gathered a caravan of 150 men, women and children, who here began the ill-fated journey to California. The entire party, with the exception of seventeen small children, was massacred at Mountain Meadows, Utah, by a body of Mormons disguised as Indians.

A(nother) quick Google search (Boone County Caravan Spring) pulled back this treasure trove of Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts, among other great resources.

The point

I came across these two markers, commemorating the actions of people just a couple of miles, and a couple of years, apart in what many people would call “the middle of nowhere”.  No real point here except a reminder that there is a lot of history all around us in this big wide country of ours. Not all of it makes it into the history books, but it is all a part of how we got to where we are, and where we are going.

 

 

Wirearchy and the opposite of patriarchy

I do think that women could make politics irrelevant; by a kind of spontaneous cooperative action the like of which we have never seen; which is so far from people’s ideas of state structure or viable social structure that it seems to them like total anarchy — when what it really is, is very subtle forms of interrelation that do not follow some heirarchal pattern which is fundamentally patriarchal. The opposite to patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity, yet I think it’s women who are going to have to break this spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation.

Germaine Greer

I first heard this quote when Sinéad O’Connor used it as the first track, an intro of sorts, to her 1994 album Universal Mother. (Maybe my favorite album of hers, we saw her at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on the tour, great show.) The quote has stuck with me over the years and pops its head up at various times. Like now.

In one of those stereotypical “I wasn’t thinking of anything and it just popped into my head” moments, the phrase “the opposite to patriarchy is … fraternity” and Jon Husband‘s  concept of wirearchy came together and presented themselves to my conscious mind. Obviously the full quote refers to political, not business, organization and is from “one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement in the latter half of the 20th century” about the role of women in the transformation of politics, and this reference to fraternity has nothing directly to do with business or the organization of work.

But I can’t help thinking there is something here to explore.

 

The next adventure

This is one of my favorite Hugh MacLeod business card cartoons:

adventure

In his email message accompanying this doodle, Hugh says it took him “twenty years to get from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.” It took me about the same amount of time, a little more or a little less depending on how you count it. Since reaching that point, I’ve had several most excellent adventures. I’ve often wondered though:

How do you know when it is time to start looking for the next adventure?

It’s easy, of course, and incredibly fun when your next adventure finds you. But in the absence of that, how do you know when the current adventure has become just another project? When it is time to actively seek a new adventure?

Or at least let all those potential adventures know that you are ready for them?

Inspiring the web with just 10K

My friends and coworkers know I complain (a lot) about how bloated things have become and how I pine for the good old days when page downloads were measured in tens of kilobytes instead of megabytes. Time to put my mind to work coming up with a solution instead of just complaining.

“With so much of an emphasis on front-end frameworks and JavaScript runtimes, it’s time to get back to basics—back to optimizing every little byte like your life depends on it and ensuring your site can work, no matter what. The Challenge? Build a compelling web experience that can be delivered in 10kB and works without JavaScript.”

Source: 10k Apart @ 10K Apart