– David Burkus
We tracked down David Burkus, the author of the new book Under New Management, and spoke to him about how we can overhaul our understanding of what organizational management should look like. David was interviewed by Todd Greer, the Managing Editor for Nonprofit Performance Magazine. This is part 1 of our interview. Read part 2 on Tuesday.
Todd Greer: You are seeing everything change. What was your general feeling as you were bringing the pieces of your book together?
David Burkus: Before The Myths of Creativity came out, I was not a creativity writer or researcher. I’d done some work in creativity and innovation, but my background is in psychology and leadership. The question that led me into creativity is this: What do the leaders of creative companies do? The answer turned into this whole thing about belief. The question in Under New Management is no different.
When I was writing The Myths of Creativity, there were many companies that were doing things differently, and it was working really well. We learned why hackathons work, and that produced another question: How else are companies differentiating themselves in terms of people practices? That led to this book, with ways that people are different and how it is better than business as usual. Better is defined as getting business results, and how they work so well.
It wasn’t a whole overhaul of the system. It was a realization that people already are different. It is not a moral case for why business needs to change, but it is a realization that some of the most innovative and highest performing companies already have changed. If you want to continue to attract and retain top talent, you are going to have to make these changes, whether you want them or not.
That is why I opened with the story of Frederick Taylor. It is not a rant against Taylorism, but a realization that Taylor designed a very great reinvention of the factory for the industrial age. We drag Taylorism from the factory to the office without questioning whether we should be using the same principles. If Frederick Taylor were alive and looking at the office, he wouldn’t prescribe the same things because it is a different type of factory. We are using outdated policies and practices.
Todd: In Change Your Space, Change Your Culture, the authors [Rex Miller, Mabel Casey, and Mark Konchar] talk about how the average building is 60 years old. Offices are taking shape with the ideas, framing, products, and services that we provided in buildings from the 1960s. How does that infuse into the work we do and inform the things we are doing? I think there are a lot of similarities here with what you are saying. With Taylorism, you are going back to an even earlier time period. That is such a great call for each of us in our organizations.
David: The two big levers that senior leaders pull are culture and systems. Who we let into our organization affects our culture. But we get to say what our systems are. Behavior is a function of the person and the environment in the same way that organizational behavior is a function of the culture (the personality of the organization) and the environment (the systems that are in place). We give all sorts of talk to culture, and it is a hugely important piece. It works anonymously alongside those systems. We also need to take a deep look at our systems. Are we using systems from the 1960s, or are we using systems that are better for managing work today?
David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity, LDRLB, and Under New Management, writes for The Creativity Post and 99U. His passion is leadership, innovation, strategy, and the transfer of good ideas. Find him at http://davidburkus.com, Twitter @davidburkus, or Facebook/drdavidburkus
This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today.
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