We often slip into use the language of force to describe transformation of our organisations in the future of work: rebels, revolution, vanguard, etc. In so doing, we inadvertently romanticise the force & power dynamics that are at the heart of traditional organisations. Using the language of persuasion is more aligned to the changes advocated by the future of work.
Managers will transform to a new way of working when they are persuaded it is truly a better way. The future of work needs the employee’s engagement. We are transforming work to make it more human. Let’s use more human means in that transformation.
Satyagraha is the term used to describe Mahamatma Gandhi’s approach to nonviolence. This approach has inspired non-violent change since. Focused on ‘insistence in truth’ it sought to focus on action that would bring forth persuasion of the opponents of change and strength in those arguing for change:
pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other.
Gandhi also said:
Satygraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.
Critical to Gandhi’s approach was the recognition that arguing for a new truth is an act of strength and that the means matter. Adopting the means of the oppressor to justify change weakens the cause.
Changing to the Future of Work
The future of work will not arrive in a revolution. As tempting as it may be to declare that there will be a moment of radical transformation, the changes that will come to the way we work will arrive as one by one managers change to new and better practices. If they fail to change, it will come as their organisations are replaced by those who work in better ways.
The critical challenge for those advocating change is to endure and persuade. Those managers clinging to old ways genuinely believe that they are better. Use of these means is often a ‘self evident truth’ or ‘what management means’. Change agents must continue to advocate, to seek new arguments to demonstrate the truth of better practices and to take their arguments to those who need to hear change. Most of all they must retain compassion.
There will be no storming of corporate barricades. No new flag will be raised to herald a new era. There will be victories one person at a time as persuasion wins managers over from old models of management.
Change Agents Must Endure, Prove their Truth and Persuade
Advocating for this change will take endurance. Old models of management are not beyond using force, punishment and exile to preserve their turf. The change agent must understand and embrace the setbacks and difficulties of the challenge.
Change agents must be humble enough to put their truth to the test. Managers will not be convinced by speeches and hype. They are convinced by value and results and when they are comfortable against the risks and emotions of change from the very practices that have founded their success and identity. Their minds will change when they accept a better truth.
If we are to make work more human, more driven by human purpose and human relationships, we must accept the means of change matter. Persuasion is the acceptable means. We must demonstrate better ways, prove the value of experiments and argue the case for change until it is accepted. Our new networks run best on integrity, influence and trust. Let’s make these core to our transformation to the future of work.