London’s CITY A.M. review

When you liberate your employees, productivity and profit will follow

by Alexander Deane

28 JANUARY  2010

WE LIVE in a society in which we’re always watched – not just by the state, but in the workplace, too.

Keen to cut costs and direct workforce activities with precision, employers create ever more laborious internal rules and procedures – failing to consider the loss of the worker’s time in complying with such processes. The cost of watching often exceeds the savings bureaucratic rules might provide, and there is also the potential for real damage to morale when workers believe that they’re not trusted and feel frustrated at being fettered from getting on with the job.

Evidence from a wide-ranging number of businesses in Freedom Inc suggests that ending micro-management can make a workforce more productive. The twin messages here – “freedom works” and “stop telling and start listening” – represent the latest foray in the long battle between William McKnight’s management motto “if you put fences around people, you get sheep” and Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management” of workers with detailed procedures specifying each element of an employee’s day.

The authors write persuasively and well, amusingly skewering the captain of industry who checks his philosophical commitment to liberty and freedom at the door and fails to see the irony as he gives his staff yet another in-triplicate reporting sheet. Case studies are drawn from businesses like technology company Gore Associates and motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson, which liberated their employees and came to lead the market in their competitive fields as a result.

Business leaders rightly complain about government red tape stifling their companies – this book shows that they should apply some of that logic to their own workplace.

View the article here

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