Spiritual Adventures in the Workplace

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Point of Entry

I’ve been saying that a corporate venture is a social network, a system of relationships in which people cooperate to accomplish things they can’t accomplish on their own.  We give these relationships various names (businesses, governments, schools, hospitals, and so on) but I’ve been urging you to focus on the fact that they are relationships.  That’s the key thing.

The individual’s point of entry into this social network is their job. This may seem obvious, but let me spell it out.  A job is a set of responsibilities within that social network—a range of activities that the individual is assigned to do on behalf of the organization. With these responsibilities comes a certain degree of authority.  We as individuals are given a sphere of influence within which we may speak and act.  The exact boundaries of this sphere of influence may or may not be precise, but we work (roughly) within those limitations.  It’s not the limitations, though, that I want to focus on.

Imagine putting on a robotic suit of armor.  When you step into it, you can do things you couldn’t do on your own.  You can lift heavy objects, detonate bombs, and so on.  A job is just like that.  When you step into it, you’re empowered to do all kinds of things you couldn’t do on your own.  Your tasks may not be as exciting as detonating bombs, but you get the idea.  Your job may empower you to handle sensitive information, to poke people with needles, to climb up utility poles, or any number of other things you would never be allowed to do otherwise.

But it also expands your influence.  If your job involves keying in data, that may be all you do all day, but you’re actually accomplishing much more than that—in concert with others. If all goes well, lots of others within the company build on what you’ve keyed in.  If you make a mistake, however, it may be passed on to so many people that it will become difficult to correct.

In other words, a job really is our point of entry into the network, and it gives us authority to say and do things that nobody outside the organization can do.  In fact, nobody else within the organization can do those things unless they have the same job.  There may be plenty of people with lots more authority than we have, but they can’t do our job.  Or at least, they can’t do it while they’re busy doing their own.

I know this is all quite obvious, and I don’t mean to bore you or insult your intelligence.  But it seems to me that we haven’t considered the implications of all this, precisely because it is all so obvious.

I’ll say more about that next time.

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