Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ideal employer is a volunteer

An article in managers online (Dutch) about Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) caught my attention. According to an article by Livia Markczy, OCB is defined as:

"Individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization."

There are two types of behavior in OCB:

  • Active positive contributions
  • Avoidance of harmful behaviors
The original Capability Maturity Model (CMM) tried to achieve repeatability by eliminating the dependency of "heros" in an organization and replacing them by defined procedures and processes. In other words, anybody with the right skill-set ought to be able to do it.

The Agile approach however recognizes the value of people's contributions over formal procedures. Heroic behavior like OCB probably flourishes better under Agile than under CMM regimes. It relies on trust and respect, and as Brad Appleton writes "The first thing to build is trust".

At the IBM developerWorks Rational discussion forums, where I am discussion facilitator for the ClearCase forum, IBM staff and the discussion facilitators are trying to build a user community. Apart from technical means and resources to communicate and interact, such a community depends on people that contribute exceptionally, so called valued contributors (OCB type 1 behavior). They contribute positively to the customer satisfaction, which IBM values (or should value) because it is good for sales and saves service (support) costs.

But one of the concerns for IBM Rational is that the promotional power of a user community depends on avoidance of harmful behavior (OCB type 2 behavior). The big questions is how to foster this type of behavior? Open source communities show that it can be done, so I am optimistic.

On one side, I see that the business world is becoming hard and cold, revolving around money, stocks and stakeholders, treating people like assets. On the other side, I see more and more initiatives that are soft and warm, revolving around people, community building and trust, treating business as intellectual challenges.

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