There is always that one course or one book that sticks with us forever after we’ve long graduated from college. For me, it’s always been “Organizational Behaviour” by Steven L. McShane. An avid fan of ethics and philosophy, this was a book that I read for my one and only business course during my university years, and in it, all the theories and notions I learned from my arts classes were put in practice in a single textbook – all applying to the laws of business.
Years later, I worked for a marketing company with the worst organizational culture; or as my book defines: the basic pattern of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that are considered to be the correct way of thinking about and acting on problems and opportunities facing an organization. If an organization is groups of people who work interdependently toward a purpose, my first experience in a marketing firm represented everything that’s wrong with organizational culture. It was, in fact, a deteriorating culture, with holes poking through at every turn mostly due to a lack of solid business planning, an encouraging support structure, and the desire to make money before understanding the right way to go about making it.
You see, as my book explains, the evolution of creating successful work environments is not a new curiosity. It in fact stretches as far back to Plato and the human desire to reach personal and collective goals – what another favourite of mine, Stephen R. Covey speaks of in “The 7 Habits to Highly Effective People”. Creating mission statements and end goals helps individuals and organizations draw clear paths to guide them toward accomplishing whatever it is they are set out to accomplish.
I am writing this article in an effort to revisit the nature of organizational behaviour and structure as it applies to today’s online marketing industry. For those in the online marketing world, the discussion about productivity and its relationship to time is probably a subject you’ve crossed paths with before. We’ve all heard about and read Timothy Ferris bestseller “The Four Hour Work Week”. You may have also encountered the large collection of courses, podcasts and videos about the nature of productivity – one that comes to mind right now is Eben Pagan’s Wake Up Productivity. Famous blogger and author of “Blog Profits Blueprint”, Yaro Starak, also teaches “The Real Secret to a 2-Hour Work Day”. What I intend to do here, is delve into the reason why the productivity/time ratio is a constant subject among scholars and researchers, and why many successful online marketing enthusiasts are fascinated with working smart rather than working hard.
And so I begin.
It all starts with…personalities and individual value systems
Experts and researchers who’ve attempted to catalogue and assess the nature of personality, are responsible for dominant theories like the “Big Five personality dimensions” and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. These are two that you’re probably already familiar with. How personality relates to different value systems is another subject that’s fascinating to people. Values, as my book defines, are stable, evaluative beliefs that guide our preferences for outcomes or courses of action in a variety of situations. So when you combine personality with values, it’s clearer to understand why the human makeup is so different and why it makes us all so unique. Things we value like security, power, hedonism, universalism, tradition, achievement, all exist in each of us to different proportions. The question that arises is how is it possible to reconcile the idea that in an organization we are supposed to come together to achieve a common goal, when we are so individually different?
Organizational structure, in my textbook, refers to the “division of labour as well as the patterns of coordination, communication, work flow, and formal power that direct organizational activities”. Or as Stephen Covey explains in detail in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, how levels of dependence, independence and interdependence work among people in an organization, and further – how can a company reach organizational success when people are all so different, all with their unique sets of personality and values.
There are two elements of organizational structure that you by now are familiar with quite well – centralized organization and decentralized organization. Decentralization is the one I’d like to focus on because it is becoming eminently clear that the online marketing industry is becoming more and more decentralized as company structures flatten, and bureaucracy is weeded out with changes like open-concept office spaces. My good old book, Organizational Behaviour defines decentralization as the means of dispersing decision authority and power throughout the organization, eliminating micromanagement and allowing individuals to have the freedom to set out their own work ethics and strategies all according to their own personally and value systems.
How do I know that organizational structure is becoming decentralized?
Type into craig’slist a job description like web developer or graphic designer, and see the amount of companies that have posted job offerings for freelancers and outsourcing alternatives. Freelancing, whether it’s for design or SEO, is becoming the most prominent ways corporations allocate work. Business owners today are even picking up on the trend of outsourcing administrative work to virtual secretaries.
Let’s take Google, for example. I invite you to look at this video to see what’s really going on within the organizational structure of Google. Google is essentially giving its employees the freedom to take care of their basic needs, their own domestic needs, and personal desires at work, all in an effort to become more productive in work. I’m not advocating that organizations should start thinking about bringing in gourmet chefs to their cafeterias, but I am saying that Google is finding a way to allow workers to be masters of their own productivity. In turn, Google is considered to be one of the best places to work for http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2009/index.html, and I confidently say they are one of the most innovative and advanced companies today.
Now, you may say that when a company is a young start-up without years of experience, it’s important to monitor everyone’s work closely and allow bureaucracy to reign as an element and catalyst for “true” productivity – A.K.A a 9-5 workday. You may also say that productivity speeds up with experience. These are elements that I am by no means disregarding – there are absolute truths in both factors.
However, I am talking about stepping out of the rigid values of our Western society that dictate that “time is money”, and working a 12-hour work day is what will make you reap the rewards of “real” success – A.K.A financial success. Another philosophy that you’ve probably heard of before is that constant movement is the route to true happiness (closely related to ideas like “The Secret”). But if you look at success stories, like Yaro Starak, you will see that he speaks exactly about bringing in elements of balance and the desire for well-being as priorities that override the hunger for money.
I am by no means advocating renouncing worldly needs, but I am trying to incorporate into the strategy the need for well-being and internal fulfillment which is a factor that is not reflected to the 9-5 shift, and the one-time 2-week vacation once-a-year.
So why is it that everyone in the online marketing industry is interested in cutting down the work week? Why is it that everyone is trying to find other means for productivity?
The ones who see big success in this industry are provided with the freedom to travel all around the world, and work from their laptops from whatever country they’re in and whatever beach they lay on. Chasing after a lifestyle such as this is not solely exclusive to the online marketing industry but with the advent of web technologies, this is becoming more and more of a reality for others in different industries.
Organizational structure should enable employees to experience the lifestyle they see themselves living (of course while being productive and contributing to their organization). While personality and values are different from person-to-person, our desire to live our lives without constraint is probably a universal desire.
Organizational culture should be shifting to create employees that work smart, not hard. Producing profits is the end-goal of any organization, and the validity of this need will never be disputed, but the realization that producing happy employees (like the employees of Google), and the freedom to work in an environment most suited to our individual preferences is something that we see prevail as online marketing companies see more value in outsourcing. The importance in chasing after happiness and well-being is a complex goal in itself, but by understanding more about what employees need and giving them the freedom to satisfy those needs, perhaps we are moving toward a more successful formula to organizational culture and structure.
To leave off, I’ll mention another term that my textbook explores: organizational commitment. What this term refers to is the employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in a particular organization. Organizational behaviour scholars call this effective commitment because it refers to the individual’s feelings toward the organization. Perhaps the goal of companies should shift from producing hard workers to developing employees that get satisfaction out of working where they do. Happy employees are productive employees, and if flexibility is the answer, then organizational structures that move toward the freedom to work productively under sets of principles that one dictates for himself is something to rejoice in and capture the momentum of.