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M-Prize Finalists Take the Work out of Work

by Ross Smith on August 15, 2011


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M-Prize Finalists Take the Work out of Work

The moonshot, Take the Work out of Work talks about blurring the boundary between vocation and avocation. Our goal is to create an environment that supports Douglas MacGregor's Theory Y where work is voluntary and more like play. So, let's congratulate the recent M-Prize finalists and take a look at how many of them are doing the work that supports this moonshot!

We're in the midst of dramatic global change. From constitutional changes in Morocco to the Debt Crisis in the US, from the challenges in global warming to economies in the midst of turmoil--most of us face unprecedented challenges in making our work matter.

In the midst of all this chaos, perhaps we can call a timeout--to highlight a few of those who are standing firm in the face of these challenges to bring greatness into their organizations. There are many facets of the work here that lands these folks amongst the M-Prize finalists, but our job here is to call out aspects of their efforts that "Take the Work out of Work."

In Massive Storytelling Sessions, Alberto Blanco and others urge us to host storytelling sessions to produce shared company aspirations. Clearly, storytelling is an avocation--storytelling is not a job. Or is it? I'll be a bit of a homer here, and introduce Steve Clayton, storyteller for Microsoft and there's more in The Corporate Storyteller.

In the 3M story on Innovation Live, Barry K. Dayton describes how one of the lessons they learned was to build a platform that is, "ridiculously easy to use, fun, esthetically pleasing, fast from anywhere in the world, with good analytics, moderation and reporting capability." They wanted a "user interface that was attractive, fun and easy to use."

With a little more on the importance of storytelling, Chris Rasmussen talks about the Living Intelligence System as "an alpha project within the United States Intelligence Community (IC) aimed at transforming the vertical agency-proprietary reporting and analysis process (finished intelligence) and reducing the amount of static and duplicative analytic production" - to create joint, integrated narratives. The Limits of Informal "2.0" Collaboration and Why Changing the Official Process Matters.

In Nobody's As Smart as Everybody, Jim Lavoie talks about the first day at work at Rite-Solutions: "At 9am on your first day of work we throw you a birthday party--with wrapped presents, cake and all kinds of fun. That morning, your family gets the "welcome wagon"--flowers, gifts and a personal note from me and Jim, delivered at home. The idea behind the birthday party is that you've arrived at a new place where you belong and are important." Business cards reflect the environment, "Instead of a job title, every employee's business card reads 'One of FEW' ( which means 'friends enjoying work'--and we mean that)! We all share offices (including the co-founders and all the top executives). All work here is team based and each person plays multiple roles and can work on multiple teams, many of them on a volunteer basis. Information is shared widely."

Tsukasa Makino, an M-Prize finalist from the Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co, offers several examples of Taking the Work out of Work in his story, From bureaucratic, divided, passive, and exhausted to productive, creative, autonomous, and happy. In 2009, they started the "Next Dream" initiative, where "any employee can raise a theme which he or she thinks TMN Systems could be the world's No.1, and can become the leader of the team. Anyone who likes the theme can join the team. The themes include "Become the most effective user of the Cloud Computing", "Create the best office environment in the world", etc. 40 teams were established. In 2010, they established three service functions operated by people with physical or mental disabilities: A coffee shop named "Smile Cafe," a massage room named "Smile Relaxation Room," and a general affairs office named "Smile Office Services." The results were recognized as TMN has been ranked for three years in the survey "Great Place to Work" in Japan by the Great Place to Work(R) Institute Japan.

Authentic leaders are standing up to take their rightful position in front. It's incredible to read these stories and recognize that these folks have paid the tuition for OUR education. The lessons here can serve all of us as we make our way towards a brighter future, where work feels less like "work" --and management evolves to accommodate 21st century tools and create 21st century organizations.

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