Sunday, October 12, 2008

The purpose of weekends?

I was reading this article in the Atlantic Online: Waiting for the Weekend, and it made me a little sad. The industrial model of leisure is no more humane than the industrial model of work.

What is the meaning of the weekday-weekend cycle? Is it yet another symptom of the standardization and bureaucratization of everyday life that social critics such as Lewis Mumford and Jacques Ellul have warned about?

I think it is. Give me a freerange enterprise any day. The freerange enterprise is not just about working differently. It's about living differenty, and work, albeit a very important component, is just one element in a more balanced lifestyle.

Work is not something objectionable that should be dropped like a hot-potato when the clock strikes 5 on a Friday afternoon. Nor is leisure something that should be scheduled. With freeranging we work when we're most inspired. We also feel no guilt about taking a walk, a ride, a nap, or whatever when it strikes us.

People indoctrinated into the industrial model of working react to freeranging as if it means we're working all the time. They like to invoke terms to describe us like workaholic. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you're working all the time, then what you're doing is not freeranging. Having the freedom, and the license to maintain a healthy balance in your life is a critical component of the modern freeranging workplace. You can't freerange without it.


Peg Boyles said...

Kevin, I find the opposite response from many people I work with.

They predict a freerange enterprise would fall prey to something akin to the Tragedy of the Commons. The argument goes something like this:

"We have to cage people up and hold everyone to a common schedule and a fixed location, because too many folks working on the freerange standard would abuse the freedom."

There's a tacit assumption that people can't or won't work to a high standard of performance (quality and volume), service, competence, efficiency, innovation, team participation, leadership, etc., unless bound to an industrial schedule and a fixed workplace.

Healthy balance? We recommend it to our clientele, but our implicit institutional culture values dashboard dining, 14-hour days in the chair (or car coming and going from a meeting), and rarely finding time in the "workweek" for exercise, family time, or preparing a nourishing meal from real food.

Ricardo Semler's 1988 book Maverick tells the extraordinary story of a Brazilian freerange manufacturing enterprise. A terrific, morale-boosting read, perhaps a harbinger.

Kevin Gamble said...


Great comments! Thank you.

It's the old Douglas McGregor Theory X/Theory Y. What's it say about organizations that advance Theory X thinkers into positions of leadership?

I'm not so sure that very many existing organizations are capable of making a freeranging transformation. It cuts to the leadership, trust, and cultural issues. It's the new organizations adopting these new ways of working, and they are positioning themselves to kick some serious butt. I don't think the old-school organizations will be able to compete.

Anyway, you've made some good points and have given me some ideas for several more posts on this topic. Thank you!

Now to order Maverick...


Peg Boyles said...

Right on! Freerange enterprises constitute disruptive innovations. The dominant institutional culture(s) can't see 'em coming, and probably can't respond with enough agility to stay in the game, especially given the dramatic economic perturbations of the past few months. Which, it seems to me, will favor the disruptive freerangers.