In a previous post, I mentioned that there have been some recent revisions announced. I was referring to the revisions in the MBM Guiding Principles. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to take a closer look at some of these updates and give you “Ann’s two cents” on a couple of the changes. As mentioned previously, I think the changes fall loosely into three categories.
- Our thinking has evolved because the world has changed, and we must change with it.
- Our thinking has evolved because we’ve found a better way to do things.
- Updates reflect a better way to articulate or communicate what is already there with little or no substantial evolution in the body of MBM knowledge.
Some of the revisions to the MBM Guiding Principles are because of reason number 2: Our thinking has evolved because we’ve found a better way to do things. I think the best example of this is the Guiding Principle of Fulfillment.
Find fulfillment and meaning in your work by fully developing your capabilities
to produce results that create the greatest value.
There are a couple of key concepts that are new to this Guiding Principle: meaning in your work and individual capabilities. The previous version of this Principle mentioned realizing potential and creating value — two concepts that can be connected to meaningful work — but did not explicitly bring the concept to forefront.
Since this Guiding Principle was originally drafted (many years ago, I couldn’t pin down an exactly year), the MBM Philosophy had not yet full incorporated many of the ideas of meaningful work. Since that time, much thought and study has gone into understanding meaningful work. The core concepts about meaningful work come from the work of Abraham Maslow. As Maslow consulted with successful businesses, he noticed a connection between meaningful work healthy employees and businesses. He generalized this connection to all types of work:
“All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work …If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless. Perhaps here also is the place to point out that no matter how menial the chores – the dishwashing and the test-tube cleaning, all become meaningful or meaningless by virtue of their participation or lack of participation in a meaningful or important or loved goal. For instance, cleaning up baby diapers is repulsive work in itself, but it can be very lovingly done, it can be a beautiful thing for a mother who loves her baby. Washing dishes can be the most meaningless chore or it can be a symbolic act of love for one’s family and can therefore take on great dignity and can even become a sacred activity, etc” (Maslow on Management, 39).
Maslow’s examples above focus on work that contributes to one’s family, which is important and incredibly meaningful for most people. But how might the work one does in a role at a company be meaningful? Maslow used an illustration of the importance of meaningful work for individuals:
“I can use here my case of a woman who develop an anhedonia (loss of zest and pleasure in life) because she had a job as a personnel manager in a chewing gum factory and simply couldn’t get excited about chewing gum. She might have enjoyed very much exactly the same kind of work in a more meaningful (to her) factory” (Maslow on Management, 39).
This example shows there are many facets to meaningful work and meaningful work will vary from person to person as it is based on one’s subjective value. Aspects of meaningful work may include the employee’s responsibilities in relation to one’s abilities and preferences, how an individual’s values align with the values of the organization and understanding how one contributes to value creation. One type of work may be exciting for some and not others or working for a particular company may evoke pride in one person and self-loathing in another.
Incorporating the idea of meaningful work into the Guiding Principles is not meant to say, “Whatever you are doing, find meaning in it.” Instead, it’s meant to convey the idea that employees should be seeking out the roles and responsibilities that are meaningful to them. Not every part of one’s job is going to be meaningful, but at the end of the day, people are more productive (and usually happier) if they can see how what they do makes a difference in the world — how they create value.
What do you think about making meaningful work being part of the Guiding Principle of Fulfillment? What do you think employees can do to figure out what work (or types of work) have meaning for them?