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In “Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest“, Peter Block logically and unemotionally exposes the warts of patriarchical management and promotes the concept of stewardship as a much needed replacement for it. Check out these gems:

The antidote to self-interest is to commit and to find cause. To commit to something outside of ourselves. To be part of creating something we care about so we can endure the sacrifice, risk, and adventure that commitment entails. This is the deeper meaning of service.

When patriarchy asks its own organization to be more entrepreneurial and empowered, it is asking people to break the rules that patriarchy itself created and enforces.

Stewardship is the willingness to hold power, without using reward and punishment and directive authority, to get things done.

Many managers open the door to their employees, and no one walks through it. (BMs love when no one from below confronts them).

At the heart of entitlement is the belief that my needs are more important than the business and that the business exists for my own sake. (BMs always think this way).

At some point each of us has to discover that our self-interest is better served by doing good work than getting good things.

“Are you here to build a career or to build an organization?” has to be clear and without hesitation…we are here first to build the organization.

“You are teaching revolution to the ruling class.” The phrase stayed with me. There is something both unsettling and very true about it. The truth is that we are, in fact, talking about a revolution. Revolution means a turning. Changing direction. The act of revolving. It means the change required is significant, obvious even to the casual observer. Obvious, for example, even to customers. It is more comforting to talk about evolutionary change. Evolutionary change means that everything is planned, under control, and reasonably predictable.

Getting better at patriarchy is self-defeating. Having one group manage and one group execute is the death knell of the entrepreneurial spirit. (BMs ignore this).

The notion of management prerogatives disappears. There is no privileged class of people. Everyone does work that brings value to the marketplace. And everyone should do some of the core work of the organization part of the time. (BMs have no idea how to perform core work).

Measure business results and real outcomes, stop measuring people’s behavior and style in getting there.

The trick here is to be accountable without being controlling. Patriarchy has always justified control on the basis of accountability.

Overhead costs are an interesting one. We are very verbal about the costs of direct labor. There is much less information on the cost of field overhead or, especially, home office overhead charges and what they consist of. (BMs think they are worth every overhead penny that they consume).

We have been swinging between centralization and decentralization for decades, with our patriarchal method of governance remaining unscathed.

Systems are usually designed to control people, not to give those close to the customer information to make good decisions for the business.

Groups that invent, design, produce, market, sell, and deliver the product or service are the line functions. The line functions are what are referred to in this book as the core work teams or core workers. (These are the DICs).

The main limitation of a functional structure is that it does not react well to the customer’s need for quick and whole-system oriented solutions.

If you insist on having an appraisal process, let people be appraised by their customers. This means bosses will be appraised by their subordinates. (BMs think subordinates have no right to appraise them).

Everyone likes the idea of pay for performance, but most of us have rarely experienced it. We most often get paid on the basis of how our boss evaluates us. This is more accurately called “pay for compliance.”

A demand for measurement is an expression of doubt and lack of faith.

Middle managers who made a living planning, organizing, and controlling are no longer needed and, in fact, get in the way. If they cannot now answer the question of what real value they add to their unit, then perhaps they are no longer needed. (LOL!)

Victims are strong believers in patriarchy, they are just angry that they are not the patriarchs. (Victims = DICs like you and me).

We replace coercion and persuasion with invitation.

At nights and on weekends we cry out for human rights and freedom of speech, and then we go to work and become strategic and cautious about our every word for fear we will be seen as disloyal or uncommitted.

Of course, since Block’s views align closely with my own, reading the book got me all juiced up. I found myself rooting for him and constantly saying to myself: “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!”.

  1. fishead
    June 27, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I’ll take that book when you’re done with it. This is awesome!

    Speaking of books, you’ve got more than a year-and-a-half’s worth of blog snippets, insights, and DIC-agrams. When’s your book coming out?

  2. June 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

    DIC-agrams – LOL! I’m sincerely flattered fishtank. Up until now, my ego has scared myself out of getting off of my comfortable little (actually big) ass and writing a book. It keeps telling me it’s too much work; I don’t know how to start; blah, blah, blah.

    I’d send the Stewardship book to you, but I’ve only got the electronic kindle version. It’d be neat if Amazon allowed transfers and trades. Maybe in the future they will add that feature to their service.

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