change management, management practice, rebel

Rerum Cognoscere Causas

One of the first things I learnt at LSE was the school’s motto – “Rerum Cognoscere Causas” which means “to know the cause of things”. Its a very basic yet very powerful thought.

It has made me wonder about the reasoning behind some of the work-place practices and policies that I have seen in the past and continue to see around me. For instance why is linkedin banned in so many workplaces when it can actually act as a marketing and recruitment tool. Why do we have to have a bell curve – and is life so easy that everyone can fit into a defined curve? Why cannot we come late to the workplace when we often have to stay up much longer than our working hours? Are our workplace adopting practices that are draconian with no rebel to question these policies?

Liz Ryan recently wrote a very interesting article in BusinessWeek ( talking about 10 management practices that should be axed. One of her points is really interesting. 360 degree feedback and employee satisfaction surveys are become more prevalent in larger organizations. While taking feedback itself is a wonderful initiative, the process of 360 degree feedback is debatable. Is anonymous feedback better than direct feedback? Why does feedback have to be so impersonal? Also feedback taken once a year may not be as effective as direct feedback sessions with the concerned manager. By implementing 360 degree feedback what is the message we are sending across to our managers and employees? And the biggest question of all – why did anyone come up with anonymous feedback in the first place. Was it because our  managers and leaders were not given enough guidance and training to be developed into a leader? And are employees afraid to give feedback against managers that anonymous feedback is required? Does it mean that our work place teams are so dysfunctional that they cannot go up to their manager in case of any issue?

One excuse for existance of such practices would be the size of organisations – as they become larger its difficult to give individual and personalized attention (but is that really true)? Can we use the motto of Rerum Cognoscere Causas to get a better understanding of why we do what we do?