The Demands of the Enterprise on the Worker

By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

From The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker, The Demands of the Enterprise on the Worker (page 268):

The enterprise must expect of the worker not the passive acceptance of a physical chore, but the active assumption of responsibility for the enterprise’s results.

This attitude not only is necessary for organizations to prosper today, it provides people what they need – the opportunity to be proud of what they do. That opportunity drives them to improve and fulfills the psychological needs people have to provide value to others.

From page 268-269:

There is a second demand the enterprise must make on the worker, that he is willing to accept change.

no being on heaven or earth is greedier for new things [than humans are]. But there are conditions for man’s physiological readiness to change. The change must appear rational… must appear an improvement. And it must not be so rapid or so great as to obliterate psychological landmarks which make a man feel at home: his understanding of his work, his relations to fellow workers, his concepts of skill, prestige and social standing…

As Peter Scholtes said, “people do not resist change, they resist being changed” (page 7 of the Team Handbook).

Organizations often create a climate where people fear change. But this is more due to poor management practices than human nature. True, the result is a combination of both; when an organization doesn’t respect people, doesn’t make evidence-based decisions, uses fear as a bludgeon to get people to go along… then it is human nature to resist change. Human nature will lead fearful people to seek protection from the unknown.

The solution is to create an enterprise where the human nature to seek positive change, to seek improvement, is nurtured and the factors that resist change are addressed in a way that doesn’t cause people to fear change.

As part of this, an evidence-based system (PDSA, for example) of improvement that results in a high rate of success with change is very helpful. If people have seen a track record of success, they will accept and embrace change. If they have seen a track record of failure, they will resist change.

To “appear an improvement” (as Drucker stated) to people, one factor is the evidence provided, both the explanation of the scope of the change and evidence of why it will be successful – both of which PDSA does well. And another is the evidence from past efforts, even great explanations up front of how the change will be wonderful, are not going to convince people that it “appears an improvement” if historically, the initial explanations were not followed by successful implementation.

The demand for workers to accept change carries with it the requirement that the management system create a climate in which this a reasonable expectation.

Both demands that Drucker suggested show an appreciation for the importance of understanding psychology and respecting the workforce.

Related: How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept AdoptedKnowing How to Manage People Is the Single Most Important Part of ManagementWhere There is Fear You Do Not Get Honest Figures

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