The "Employee" an Inefficient Model for the Future

At its core, the employee and employer relationship does not serve the new business environment. The "single job" model is a relationship where a person assigns control to an organization in exchange for a mitigation of risk. As a result of the revolution, successful organizations will rid themselves of these types of relationships because at their very core they are inefficient and no longer applicable.

The best and most innovative work comes only from true commitments freely made between people in a spirit of partnership, not from bosses telling people what to do. Leadership cannot be assigned or bestowed by power or structure; you are a leader if and only if people follow your leadership when they have the freedom not to. Conversely, those without leadership skill will quickly be rendered impotent as associates simply bypass them and align around those who can lead. In effect these mechanisms allow groups of associates to fire their boss.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of vesting people with the power to fire their boss, then you’re not ready for the task of running a business or managing a business in the new world that is emerging as a result of the revolution in business today. As people become more comfortable with ambiguity, they will trade the single-job model for a multiclient model, thus granting to any single organization or person less power over their lives and livelihood. Droves of mid level managers who lost jobs in the past decade, for example, suddenly learned that low ambiguity in the form of a single job comes at a price of high risk because all of their eggs were in one basket. This shift is apparent as older executives bemoan the “lack of loyalty” in the younger generation. Yet there is no less loyalty in the younger generation. Younger people are just granting less power to any single organization; they are less subservient because they have more degrees of freedom. And the complaining executives are confusing subservience to power with loyalty to cause. But they are very different concepts. Business owners and managers will need to develop the latter and eliminate dependence on the former to be effective in the new world. Eventually the single-job employment structure will be seen as a barbaricform of organization, much as indentured servitude is seen today. We will see a greater shift away from the ownership of people through employment, which is nothing other than an advanced form of owning people by owning their time. In the future every relationship, at least in the best organizations, will be viewed conceptually as a joint venture.

Exerpts from an article, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down.The article first appeared in Leading Beyond the Walls, a book edited and produced by the Peter F. Drucker Foundation on Non-Profit Management and published by Jossey-Bass books, 1999.