Work is about control. Let’s stop ignoring that.

I’m going to keep this one short to prove a point. Here’s maybe the 92,151st article in history on “the strategy-execution gap.” This section feels relevant:

The fear of creating this very situation, executives explained to us, is why so many of them focus on the tangible instead of the human. Having an open dialogue around important strategic issues simply feels too risky. “We feel like we would lose control,” they told us. “Resistance to our plans would surface.” In fact, psychology and experience tells us, the reverse is true: A lack of genuine, reciprocal interaction and the feeling of imposed change increases employees’ anxiety and resistance.

“Focus on the tangible” means controllable elements, i.e. process and protocol. The “human” would be the messy bullshit that comes with, well, humans. Most people focus on process.

Look at this other quote from the same article:

The theme of control is particularly interesting given the stated aspiration of most organizations to empower their people. The most common chief executive exaltation we hear is “We must be more innovative, agile, and adaptable.” Yet when we engage with executives we find one of the biggest drivers toward the tangible is the fear that without a firm grip anything could happen.

The essential dichotomy of work: innovation is supposed to matter, but control actually matters.

It’s literally impossible to have any “future of work” (minus robots) discussion without acknowledging this basic reality: to most people — especially middle managers! — work is about control and relevance/self-worth. It almost has nothing to do with productivity and innovation.

Can we just admit this already?

/done and done

Ted Bauer


  1. Success is created by people, not systems or processes. Systems and processed can either facilitate progress or hinder it. They can also create activity that is not progress. Sustained Leaders never confuse activity with progress, and they do not blame people for system or process defects. Leaders are measured by results, and results are generated by people, See Sustained Leadership WBS section 1.3.9 – Thinking. Great leaders use systems thinking to fix deficient systems and processes, and train their people well. They are then measured by the results the people create. People are messy, but they are the key to positive results.

    • People are messy, but the key to results. So simple and yet … so f’n hard for so many.

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