The future of teamwork

Jorge García Palomo

This is not an ordinary book. Based on extensive fieldwork, it was written with the aim of promoting responsibility and team leadership within companies. Yes, it is true that some of us are a little behind the times, so let’s get with it. Because the future, like nostalgia itself, is no longer what it once was. Times change, and all the comings and goings and challenges of an accelerating 21st century are a sea of uncertainty. At times it seems as if, to paraphrase the comedians Andreu Buenafuente and Berto Romero, “nobody knows anything”.

Just as well, then, that there are consultants like Juan Ferrer, a kind of scientist of the inner workings of companies. With a strong commitment to innovation, this prestigious speaker and executive coach stands for certain worthy goals in the sphere of management: an improved administration of human resources, better results and a search for common values. It is a view of individuals as “agents of change in their own microworlds”. A leader, these days, is not there to create followers, but rather more leaders.

The message on the front cover is clear enough: Cambiemos las organizaciones (Gestión 2000), or “Changing Organizations”. The question it asks is, why invest in people if the organization constantly interrupts and puts a break on the development and expression of their talents? Perhaps something about this model of resistance, so common here, is familiar? As the author says, “there are cultures that are less resistant to change, but everything will depend on the culture within the organization itself. In Spain there is still a long way to go. A few weeks ago, talking about these things at a company, they told me they could see what I was talking about, in fact they really liked it, but that it would take ten years to introduce such a way of working… if the firm still exists, of course!”

Networkarchy and jazz in the fight against discontent

It all started when the author began to look at why people get bored at work, why they see their jobs as just an obligation in order to pay the bills. The result is a book in which Ferrer presents an organizational formula that links economic development and wellbeing. His method is summarized in the contrast between two concise images: a symphony orchestra and a jazz band. The first is a metaphor for hierarchy: the reigning model whereby a conductor decides which instrument should play and when, while the second represents networkarchy, the creativity of each and every one of the musicians; there is no baton, no command, just flexibility and enjoyment. The great Miles Davis would have liked this; the founder of the Entrepreneurs’ Club, Efrén Miranda, certainly did. For him, this book contributes to efficiency and profitability with “wonderful advice, practical cases and reflections” that make for “essential reading for all managers who want to improve their company’s results.” So, who should be using this guide, and why? “I would say we can all benefit from it, given that everybody has an ecosystem where they can exert an influence.

However, it is mainly aimed at CEOs, directors, managers and heads of department,” suggests consultant Juan Ferrer. “What is happening around us often creates dissatisfaction, a lack of effort, power games and frustration. We have a slow response to a world that is changing quickly around us. There are other ways of organizing ourselves, which result in people giving their best, and so feeling more fulfilled,” he says. If more dynamic companies are leaving traditional ones behind, this rigorously researched book shows us why.

Initiative, talent and cooperation

So, when the time comes, what model should we choose? “The old and familiar hierarchy, or networkarchy, as a tool with which to tackle the future? The Teal model, based on self-management, fullness and evolutionary purpose? The dual operating system?” asks the expert, convinced that in these questions lie the keys to success, the right road for organizations. In this regard, everything is set out in detail. The author advocates that people be involved and motivated to work for continuous improvement and a more horizontal management that a priori usually arouses –and this is an understatement– a degree of surprise and reluctance.

“The first reaction is always doubt, and there is a kind of automatic rejection since the current model is being shaken up and it is not clear how it can be replaced. Once people read on, many of their questions are answered, and more questions come to them. The fact that it is not a theory, but a reality, since other companies have already introduced it, makes people wonder if they could do it. But of course if they keep on thinking the same as always, then the answer is no. There needs to be a change in ways of working and relating. It is like moving from a monarchy to intelligent, efficient democracy,” he says.

Excellence is won through locating those sticks in the wheel, the stones in the shoe, that friction that often stops a business from progressing. “A boss doesn’t need to motivate. What a boss should do is not demotivate,” Ferrer points out. It is about involving the group, solving problems and looking ahead with initiative, talent and cooperation. Because more than 60 years have passed since Lampedusa’s Leopard and we are no longer willing to accept that “everything needs to change so that everything can stay the same”.

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