From How Oneness Changes Everything: Empowering Business Through 9 Universal Laws by Ratanjit Singh Sondhe. Reprinted with permission from Balboa Press. Copyright © 2013 by Ratanjit Singh Sondhe.
In our constantly changing environment, only change is constant. Learning new things is absolutely vital to our existence. However, we need to create an environment and initiatives for constant learning without fear of failure. We achieved this at POLY-CARB by implementing the following three guidelines.
1. No one will have a job title. There will be no hierarchy of managers and supervisors. We are all responsible for everything within the company, not just our particular jobs. There are no bosses or subordinates, only specialized, value-adding entities.
Job titles pigeonhole people and often set up a class system with what can many times be considered unequal and, thus, unfair pay scales. Those at the bottom of the scale might feel disenfranchised and think their ideas and opinions don't matter as much. This can lead to a lassitude in one's job, which leads to mediocre performance, productivity, and products and low morale and resentment.
With no job titles, everyone will be on a level playing field; everyone will have equal say and input. No one will ever be put in the position of being discounted or underestimated. An extension of having job titles, a hierarchy in a company automatically encourages the following four things:
- Job titles establish division and exclusivity. If there is one thing that feeds the lust for power and prestige, it’s the sense of being superior to others and being able to order them around. People become protective and defensive about what little power they have within a company, and they’ll do all manner of things to hold on to their fiefdom.
- Job titles leave responsibility to the next tier above, finally ending with the CEO. This means that no staff member needs to take full responsibility for his or her decisions and actions. This is where the term “pass the buck” rears its irresponsible head. In tandem with this, job titles allow people to hide behind others in order to avoid blame or taking the heat.
- Job titles box people into specific roles and responsibilities and close them off from other areas, which leads to what is referred to as specialization. If you only know your specific job in a company, then you cannot be effective in other areas if called upon to help out.
- Job titles lead to a sense of entitlement, one of the big ego traps not just in business, but also in other aspects of life. Our unions are now ensconced in the concept of entitlement–whether earned or not– and they’ve fought battles over entitlement, thus shrugging responsibility to their peers, their industry, their society, and even their families.
2. No one is allowed to hang their diploma in their office. If they do, it will be grounds for immediate dismissal.
Diplomas are a statement about what we've accomplished in our education, but they say nothing about who we are and how we are in business. Just as the adage in show business states that we're only as good as our past performance or production, we must continually work to better our best and not rely on rewards and certificates bestowed on us to speak for us. People who rely on these visual aids, also known as crutches, are letting you know that they are not fully comfortable in their skins and aren't living fully in the present.
3. Everyone will learn everyone else's job so that any one of us can run the company and produce anything needed by our customers. No one is allowed to say, "I can't." Instead, be creative and inquisitive.
The driving idea behind this guideline is for each person to essentially nurture the mind-set of a CEO. The only way to truly be in that role is to understand the company inside and out. To facilitate this requirement, each new hire was rotated in every department and cross-trained in all areas of our business. This process was carried out for at least two years. At the end of their cross-training, they were subjected to the rule of 70/30: 70 per cent of their time was spent in an area where they found their passion lay, regardless of their formal education, specialization or the job for which they were originally hired. The other 30 per cent of their time was to be spent working in other departments and, thus, staying connected to all aspects of the company's operations. This system nurtured true team spirit in its core structure, as well as in actual operations. We had well-trained and completely vested "CEOs" working in total collaboration.
Ratanjit Singh Sondhe is a business trainer and consultant focused on developing mindful leaders for business cultural transformation. He was the founder and CEO of the international materials science company, POLY-CARB, Inc., which was acquired by The Dow Chemical Company in 2007.