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The Long Shadow of ‘Help Wanted – Female’ | The Fragility Of Company Culture | Sharp Words, Blunt Wor
 

Work Futures

December 5 · Issue #1042 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

The Long Shadow of ‘Help Wanted – Female’ | The Fragility Of Company Culture | Sharp Words, Blunt Words | How To Deal With Getting Interrupted | Carlotta Perez

Beacon NY - 2018-12-05 — Today’s haul includes a number of stories where things just didn’t turn out as planned, ranging from going unisex on help wanted ads 50 years ago, to unanticipated conflicts arising from a culture audit, and finally the minefield of meetings, the scene of endless interruptions.
Andrew Curry commented on the recent piece from John HagelNever Under-Estimate the Immune System, that I included in the links in Saying It Doesn’t Make It So:
The Hagel piece, which I have scanned quickly on my phone, reminds me of the Donald Schon model of organisational change from the early 70s, dynamic conservatism. Which I usually summarise as saying that an organisation changes by the smallest amount required to absorb the external change, regardless of the merits of the external change.
Well said.
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The Long Shadow of ‘Help Wanted — Female’ | Wyndham Robertson points out
Fifty years ago this week, this newspaper [The New York Times], after much prodding from protesters, effectively dropped “Help Wanted — Female” and “Help Wanted — Male” from its classified ads and went to just plain old “Help Wanted.” At the time, I thought this would be a game changer for women, and of course, it was — to a point. But the real mystery, after half a century, is why life at the top of large American corporations still seems so overwhelmingly male.
Indeed. She continues [emphasis mine],
In my reporting, I remember asking Herman Kahn, the “futurist” who founded the Hudson Institute, how long it would take for women to account for 25 percent of the C.E.O.s on the Fortune 500. His reply: “About 2,000 years, but make it 10 percent and I’ll say within 20 years.” In Mr. Kahn’s view, not that many women would want the top jobs, an opinion almost as unfashionable then as it is today.
I confess to thinking now that Mr. Kahn might have been right. For a futurist, though, his forecast is an embarrassment: At last count, some 40 years later, there are only 25 female C.E.O.s, just 5 percent, on the Fortune 500. There must be a reason for this weak showing, but access to the pipeline, we can now safely say, isn’t it.
Kahn was right, alas.
The surprising fragility of a powerful perk: company culture | Lila MacLellan, one of the most avid and interesting writers in work futures investigates what went wrong at product ‘co-creation’ company C Space during a 'culture audit’ and came up with four behaviors they wanted to emphasize:
  • I’ve got this.
  • Only accept awesome.
  • Show the love.
  • Do what scares you.
Maybe it’s not a surprise, but these behaviors, and the efforts to make sense of them, raised as many issues as they solved. A must read.
Concept Creep & the Buzzword Arms Race | Jane Watson is at it again, this time musing on how we can simultaneously experience terms we use frequently losing their emotive force, almost in real time, and paradoxically, when looking back in the archives, we can find that many old texts seem like they were written this morning:
What’s New is Old Again
Last year, on a business trip to Australia, I decided I would use the uninterrupted alone time on my flight to read an anthology of classic organizational theory writing (I am a lot of fun). I was surprised to find that about 80% of the ideas and research it contained felt like they could have been published last week. So much of what we think of as new is not; it’s simply been given a new label. The cynical part of me assumes that some of this is an attempt to sell more things (books, consulting, ads based on clicks).
But I choose to believe that at least some of it is our instinct that in order to cut through the personal and organizational baggage that accumulates around abstract terms like ‘engagement’, ‘culture’, ‘leadership’, ‘collaboration’, or ‘inclusion’, we have to use new language. Language that provokes people to pause and listen, to inquire, rather than to mentally check a box and assume we’re talking about the same thing. Language that prevents people from thinking “Yeah yeah, I e heard this before” and zoning out. We need that mental speed-bump to have an actual conversation.
All Aboard
Imagine, if you will, setting off on a journey to change the way we work. The HMS Employee Engagement launches to clear skies with nothing in its cargo hold but the message that organizations should attempt to increase their employees’ commitment to, and satisfaction with, their jobs. Amen! Who can argue with that? (Well, no one. That’s kind of the point…)
Our shiny new vessel carefully navigates around some ship wrecks, the HMS Employee Morale and HMS Job Satisfaction (don’t look too close folks, nothing to see there) and takes on passengers at a few ports. Everyone’s very excited to get on board. They bring all sorts of stuff with them: suitcases, trunks, crates of their own experiences and ideas. It’s a big ‘Yes and’-apalooza. And then the boat starts to drift off course, takes on water and (you knew it was coming) runs aground.
Onlookers ashore quickly spring into action. Obviously the HMS Employee Engagement was doomed from the start, they say. It exceeded capacity! It had a bad map! No worries though. They’ve got a new boat ready to launch and it’s going to be different this time. The Employee Experience Express is a winner.
[Please note that I really wanted to work a Boaty McBoat Face joke into this post, but I ran out of time. I regret the omission and welcome your joke submissions.]
And anyone who mentions Boaty McBoatface is always a must read here at Work Futures Daily. Go read the whole thing.
(Interesting that when I read Jane’s piece today (2018-12-03) I saw she curated the same Lila MacLennan post that I had encountered over the weekend!)
How to respond if you keep getting interrupted at meetings | Katie Sanders provides practical advice to deal with getting your toes stepped on in meetings, and the benefits of active participation. For example:
Chime in early 
As a general rule, the sooner you can get your voice heard in a meeting, the better, says [leadership trainer Tania] Luna. Research cites roughly equal conversational turn-taking as one of the best predictors of high-performing teams, and the benefits of claiming your talking space early on in a meeting can help reduce the participation barrier throughout the discussion. In his book The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the impact of this within surgical teams. When all members of a team each voiced their names to each other before surgery, Gawande not only noted a positive impact on team members’ willingness to speak up during the procedure; he also observed a 35% decrease in the average number of surgical complications and deaths. He attributes the dip in part to an “activation phenomenon.” When team members participate early on, they feel an increased responsibility and comfort speaking up and calling out problems later.
From the Archives
3 Ways You Are Failing Your Remote Workers | Annamarie Mann, in 2017, shared Gallup research that showed
employees who work remotely 100% of the time are the least engaged of all remote workers.
There’s a great deal more, there.

Quote of the Day
Each technological revolution brings with it, not only a full revamping of the productive structure, but eventually a transformation of the institutions of governance, of society, and even of ideology and culture.
Carlota Perez
crossposted from workfutures.org.
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