Your Business is Really a Community

February 14, 2020
By Michael Copp, Executive Vice President

Let’s think about your business… you know, the place you spend at least 2,000 plus hours a year out of the 6,736 hours available- assuming you also sleep. Much of that time is spent with “paid volunteers,” the majority of whom spend at least the same number of hours away from their home actively growing the business- something that is bigger than themselves. Henry Mintzberg (2009) wrote in his article, Rebuilding Companies as Communities, that “We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community”—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good… Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world.” (Retrieved on the World Wide Web on January 24, 2020, here).

The word community conjures up feelings of mutual commitment and contribution to something to which a citizen emotionally, intellectually and collectively belongs. Tom Morris (1997) described social harmony as, “Good people in good working relationships, forming together a good community out of which powerful partnerships can spring.” (Morris, T. (1997). If Aristotle Ran General Motors, New York: Henry Holt and Company, p. 119).

Senge, Ross, Smith, Roberts and Kleiner (1994) in their book, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, describe six “C” words that comprise of a process for creating and sustaining organizations as communities. They include capability, commitment, contribution, continuity, collaboration and conscience.

  1. Capability – the organization recruits and retains people with the applicable knowledge, skills and abilities to reinvent themselves and their organization’s future. They are committed to the idea that they are part of a larger learning organization that continuously strives to benefit from team learning to achieve team excellence. As Tom Morris (1997) writes, “Corporate excellence is a form of human excellence.”
  2. Commitment – the organization contains leaders, managers and employees who all are active participants in creating a future, which they mutually value together based on realities within the marketplace. That future is the vision of where the business wants to go. Senge (1990) tells us that when a group has a shared vision and shared values, the members of the group move from compliance to commitment. They do not just do what they have to do for fear of reprisal (compliance), but they do their work because they believe in it (commitment).” [Palm, M.E. and Nelson, M.A. 2000. “Leadership development course for creating a learning environment.” The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing.” (Jul/Aug): 163.)]
  3. Contribution – The organization maintains a culture of safety such that as Sigler (1999) concludes, “new ideas, methods and processes can be advanced by employees at all organizational levels.” (Sigler, Jim. 1999. “Best practices and guiding principles”— A training guide to successful development of a learning organization” Futurics (vol. 23): 67-73) Most job satisfaction deficiencies arise in part from within those who do not understand their individual contributions within the context of the entire organizational output of products and services.
  4. Continuity – Succession planning is seen as just as critical as employee recruitment and retention. Senge, Ross, Smith, Roberts and Kleiner (1994) suggest “A community-oriented workplace would foster a different view of career paths, allowing people to develop continuity and longer-term accountability for results, without sacrificing their careers. In the future, if people do change jobs or work sites, part of their compensation could be based on how well they serve as bridges of continuity to whoever replaces them.”
  5. Collaboration – As Senge, Ross, Smith, Roberts and Kleiner (1994) describe, “At Steelcase, managers have created physical ‘neighborhoods’ where product and business teams work together in proximity. They have designed a type of community ‘commons’ adjacent to these office neighborhoods to encourage the kind of informal conversation and collaboration that we associate with small towns.”
  6. Conscience – The organization finds ways to continuously exhibit what Senge, Ross, Smith, Roberts and Kleiner (1994) call “ethics and values, trust, and mutual respect” that translate into an increased sense of individual and team responsibility toward stakeholder satisfaction.

In building a sense of community, leaders must build a culture of understanding, openness, lack of fear, truth, and ability to trust vertically and horizontally within the organization. Mintzberg (2009) observes that the organization has to “promote trust, engagement, and spontaneous collaboration aimed at sustainability.” Check out these steps you can take to transform your workplace into a community.


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