Why Should Anyone Work Here? - IEDP
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Why Should Anyone Work Here?

A review of Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones’ latest book

Saturday 30 April 2016


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Goffee and Jones have developed a clever habit of creating management book titles that convey the essence of the enquiry as a memorable question or statement that is then quoted in boardrooms and classrooms around the world. These titles are then borrowed as first-hand insight by faculty and consultants to make a rhetorical point.

The most recent contribution from Goffee and Jones does it nearly as well again. Certainly a hard act to follow from ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?’ and of course ‘Clever’- Leading Your Smartest Most Creative People’, the focus of ‘Why Should Anyone Work Here?’ a question on organization design and purpose, is summarised as :

“We used to think that successful high performing organizations had strong cultures within which individuals did or did not fit… organizations no longer hold all the cards and can no longer dictate all the rules”

Goffee and Jones quest is as simple as it is aspirational:

‘If you were to design the best workplace on earth what would it look like?’

The book is held together with a useful mnemonic, DREAMS:

Difference, let people be themselves,

Radical Honesty – communicate what’s really going on.

Extra Value- magnify peoples strengths.

Authenticity – stand for something real.

Meaning- creating satisfying work.

Simple rules – reduce the clutter and making things clear.

The aim of the book is clear to show how organizations can create a thriving, attractive workplace culture that attracts and retains key talent. However, the authors are keen to point out this is not another book on ‘engagement’. They use the example of a GE executive who sent them a congratulation note:

“Saying that in his view we had taken the ‘engagement debate’ and raised it a couple of notches. But in fact we aren’t starting with that debate at all…. We are imagining a new type of answer, one the GE Executive hadn’t considered: I work here because it is the organization of my dreams…. An authentic organization.”

Goffee and Jones’s contribution adds to a recent trend in management and OD books on ‘organization’. Notably the excellent ‘Reinventing Organizations’ by Frederick Laloux and the research from Said Business School and EY on ‘Purpose’.

The book is laid out in a helpful style with each element of ‘DREAM’ denoting a chapter. There are well worn examples of how to and how not to create this ideal organization, such as the BP Deep Horizon story and Tesco horsemeat scandal. There are in addition refreshing and new examples such as the Danish Biotech company Novo Nordisk, who focus on the governing concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ that includes being financially responsible, socially responsible and environmentally responsible. This is cited as an example of:

“Another way that organizations can leverage the dynamic of value adding is by thinking differently about the larger relationships outside the firm.”

Each chapter is supported by a mini diagnostic, for example: “Does your organization stand for Authenticity?”  This is further supported by a tick checklist “Action Points for leaders” that closes each chapter. I can imagine these lists being used by countless OD trainers and facilitators to support off site sessions with management teams.

The final chapter is entitled ‘Creating and Sustaining the Authentic Organization’ and is a good reality check in the comment that “…it would be unrealistic to expect any organization to excel in everything, but some companies are showing the way on particular dimensions.”

The final challenge from the authors is over to the reader to ask: Why should anyone work here?’

This practical and pragmatic book helps that question to move from rhetoric to action.

Why Should Anyone Work Here? What It Takes To Create an Authentic Organization. Published by Harvard Business Review Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-62527-509-7

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