For years I’ve questioned the stubbornness with which companies cling to the Industrial Age’s workplace environment and management strategies. In an age of new technology, new work skills, and a new desire by employees for an opportunity to go beyond being simple workers, to creative influences with input and ownership of their projects, so many companies and managers continue to treat their employees like expendable resources that can be burned down to ash and simply replaced with a new job posting. As well, work environments are stale, don’t inspire creativity, and fail to treat the workers as responsible adults (which, by the way, inspires them to trust you and perform at a higher level).

Two articles were published this week on these topics. First, from Robert Dempsey of Rails for All and Atlantic Dominion Solutions, with his article The Changing Role of Managers, in which he discusses how his role as Project Manager has evolved through trial and error, and describes his main role as PM with these words:

The main role of the scrum master [project manager] is to remove impediments that hold back the development team from being productive. Impediments might be lack of tools or clients taking a long time to respond. The scrum master also ensures that there is as little outside interference as possible.

He goes on to say that the manager’s role is that of leader, and that trust is a major element in team success. He provides a list of books he read as well on the topic.

In the second article, from Jason at 37signals, titled, Workplace Experiments, he discusses some of the new benefits they are experimenting with to keep their team fresh and happy, and thus in the end, far more productive than the teams that work away their lives (not to mention cutting down on the high hidden cost of employee turnover). 37signals is experimenting with:

  • four day work weeks
  • helping pay for their employees to learn new things and expand themselves; everything from learning to fly to learning to cook
  • credit cards for discretionary spending (books, conferences, software)

Not all experiments may work, nor be affordable forever, but I loudly applaud the effort to shake things up, treat the employees like you really value, respect and trust them, and make an effort to look for new ways to enrich their lives and help them fulfill their passions.

Remember:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
~ Annie Dillard