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Book Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization
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Book Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization

There was a time when a career was all about security. If you could get a position with some upward mobility in a firm (or, better, with a government entity) with a good retirement plan, you considered yourself set, someone with a “good job.” But today’s companies strive to hang onto the best talent in what is no longer your grandfather’s economy. Changing technologies, social realities, and—let’s face it—the comforts one generation inherits from the hard work of the generations before have led to an evolving concept of work, one in which employees’ needs go beyond the practical and into the personal; one in which rewards are no longer measured only in levels of promotion or steps in the pension plan.

In Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What it Takes to Create an Authentic Organization (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015), researchers Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones identify the needs of the new workforce, scratching beneath the surface to examine where many firms are merely paying lip service to employee engagement, and highlighting the forces working against authentic engagement. The six qualities of an authentic organization conveniently spell the acronym DREAMS: Difference (celebrates and encourages diversity in all its forms), Radical honesty (strives for what we normally call transparency), Extra value (nurtures personal and professional growth), Authenticity (stands for something), and Meaning (provides meaningful day-to-day work).

The first six chapters are devoted, one each, to these qualities. With anecdotes and research, the authors compare these characteristics to old-school thought, underscoring the importance of sincere and systemic attitudes reaching beyond feel-good initiatives perhaps inspired by a charismatic TED Talker. For example, in the Difference chapter, we are reminded that diversity looks not only for differences in gender, race, age, or ethnicity, but perspectives, habits of mind, and core assumptions. They then spell out some of the challenges: “Make no mistake: companies that succeed in nurturing people’s uniqueness and individuality may have to forgo some degree of organizational process and structure,” they write. But when team members are free to express their differences, the wider range of perspectives and experiences results in more cutting-edge ideas and solutions. Each of these first seven chapters includes a diagnostic questionnaire for self-evaluating the culture of the workplace.

In the final chapter, Goffee and Jones repeat an earlier assertion that no company lives fully up to the ideal they outline in the rest of the book. While the six qualities work well with each other, one boosting the other, there is also a built-in tension, often dependent on the nature of the business at hand or the history of the firm, which is worth addressing as red-flag areas that can lead to a company’s trouble. Strength in one realm but serious shortcomings in another (the authors use Enron as an example) can have disastrous results. They offer advice in a “caveat emptor” section, warning ahead of time that there can be some rough seas on the journey to authenticity, including one goal working against another, or what happens when companies try to do too much.

Although the authors make a strong case, the strength of their book is in breaking down their concept into easily understood target realms. They are unlikely to convince the opposition to adopt their line of thinking, which means anyone reading the book is probably already sold on the concept. Those who need more convincing will find this offering interesting but impractical. However, leaders who agree with their (well-reasoned) assumptions will find Why Should Anyone Work Here? to be an inspiring guidebook toward redefining the workplace for the new world in which it exists.

 

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Book Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization - Executive Leadership Articles

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