Perpetuating the Insanity
I think it was Einstein who I paraphrase in saying, "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity." Yet still we persist.
I read a lot. I read blogs, articles, books, etc. I am always curious to benefit from the thinking of people smarter than I am, which I have calculated to be about 95% of the population of the world at this point (if you have any doubts, just ask my family).
I see illustrations that kind of make me go "huh" daily. One that caught my eye today was that the U.S. Postal Service is going to extend the amount of time it takes to move a piece of first class mail to reduce expenses. It seems that a combination of shrinking demand and increasing expenses for operations is causing them to lose more and more money. Their biggest single expense is the cost of retirement benefits and retiree medical benefits. It must have eluded me as to how reducing the level of service you offer is going to address either of these issues.
Similarly I saw that Donald Trump has weighed in again with his thoughts on the candidate pool for the GOP and is once again saber rattling about mounting a third party independent campaign for the Presidency. I ask myself why anyone would look to Donald Trump for leadership advice on anything beyond bad ties and really bad hair. To me at least, he represents the epitome of a Wall Street blow hard. He is very critical of everyone else, but I have never heard him articulate anything remotely resembling leadership.
I don’t get why people watch his television show, but I will admit I have never seen an episode of DWTS, Survivor, The Bachelor or Bachelorette or other shows people find fascinating.
Before you write me off as a complete snob, I love the original NCIS, followed Law and Order, and even liked most of the various CSI franchises. I am not a snob who only watches PBS.
I watch the political debates and saw the rise and fall of Herman Cain. I know some people feel like the press and the insinuations about his personal life were unfair, but really Herman? Have you ever watched an election process? The People don’t play nice. This is a place where people still insist a current President is a Muslim from Kenya. Did you really think they were going to give you a pass?
I look at a lot of people who feel like the current Administration is accountable by itself for the current economic situation.
We are sitting in a time and place where a recent survey reported 84% of Americans surveyed who had a job would change jobs given the opportunity.
The level of employee engagement, or alignment and satisfaction with their jobs, is the lowest it has been in recorded history.
C-level compensation has been increasing an average 22% per year while the average person sees pay increases in the 1.6% level if they are lucky enough to receive a pay increase, and it is not atypical to hear about terminated senior executives receiving seven and eight figure severance packages for their performance in driving their organization over a cliff. I guess the positive thing there is that some of them only lasted a year or so. Just think what they could accomplish with more time…
We offer fairly mediocre health care delivery to the majority of Americans, but the good news is we charge more for it per capita than most countries. Studies show that 60% of health care costs are attributable to lifestyle issues, but our efforts to manage health care costs mostly consist of moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic in terms of who pays for health care rather than managing health.
We spend $5 trillion per year on employee turnover and $200 billion per year on the phenomena of presenteeism, where employees show up to work but we see losses in productivity lost to stress, dealing with personal issues at work, absenteeism, and just general apathy.
What is really intriguing to me is that even with those facts and data in hand we still refer to the management of people rather than things as soft skills, and most graduate business degree programs barely address leadership, communication and interpersonal skills.
A colleague of mine posted a question on LinkedIn asking if the new reality is doing more with less. My response was no, we need to do something different.
Do we really think that leadership from either political party is going to create a meaningful solution to the issues of how organizations and individuals relate to one another? Really?
We have some deep rooted issues in how we see our personal responsibilities vis a vis society and our responsibilities to ourselves and one another.
Over 100 years ago the average American made a deal with the devil. We exchanged the rights and responsibilities of personal competency that our Founding Fathers embedded in the Constitution in exchange for a promise of codependency from the industrial powers in return for compliance and obedience. We would be compliant and loyal, and in return they would take care of us. Then the world economy happened, and technology happened and they didn't want to take care of us anymore so we turned to the government.
We created an enormous sense of entitlement and cultivated it as long as it was manageable and in the interests of shareholders.
The reality is to me at least an exclusively shareholder model is inherently flawed. Our world is integrated and systemic. Nature has shown us that time and time again. The only thing that is sustainable in the long term is a stakeholder model. In a stakeholder model we all share the responsibilities and the rewards. The rewards don’t have to be distributed equally, but they do need to be distributed equitably.
The good news is that stakeholdership works extremely well. Organizations that embrace it outperform their counterparts by orders of magnitude in every key metric. For those of you that fear stakeholdership is a disguised form of socialism, I assure you it is not: there is no codependency in stakeholdership.
So my answer is that the seeds to solving our issue live not in doing more with less, a new administration, or the application of technology, but rather in returning to an old model where the relationships between people is the fundamental measurement of value and efficacy, and we measure profit and success based on contribution to the total society not to individuals or groups.
Let’s stop the insanity. We can do this……