Friday, 20 September 2013

Managing Meaning

Culture, or "how we do things around here" (Deal & Kennedy, 1982), is the art of managing meaning in our organisations, according to Jackson and Parry (2011). Jackson and Parry, along with Edgar Schein (1985), all think that managing meaning is one of the key things that leaders do.

If we, or the leaders around us, manage meaning well, then we all feel happy, fulfilled, and necessary in our work. We know we add value, and that our contribution assists the collective whole. Knowing we are a net contributor seems to be a relatively innate human need.

So why then do so many people NOT feel happy, fulfilled and necessary? How do we manage to miss the boat so much on creating, directing, sustaining and monitoring healthy cultures in our workplaces?

I recently was directed to an article in the New Zealand Listener via a Careers and LinkedIn colleague, Mike Dooley, on 'bullshit jobs'. The article suggested that we had moved from having rubbish roles in manufacturing to having rubbish admin jobs that were just as pointless, and that the people doing those roles found them - or should find them - soul-destroying. This article was a mash-up of a few others which I also followed through (listed below).

The really interesting thing for me is that, if the culture is right, we will know exactly how we add value. If the culture is poor, then we will not understand that connection. It is leadership's key role to guide us to this meaning, and if it doesn't happen, then I feel it is a leadership failure, not a failure of the job.

What do you think?



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