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Self-Governing Online Worker Communities 139

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the talk-amongst-yourselves dept.
Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Oil-services company Schlumberger is doing something unusual for a big corporation: fostering the creation of online groups of employees with similar interests and allowing these communities to govern themselves and choose their leaders. Wall Street Journal columnist David Wessel talks to John Afilaka, a geological engineer who was elected to lead the company's rock-characterization community. 'Mr. Afilaka campaigned to increase technical professionals' influence on top management's research-and-development priorities and to forge better links among various communities. He claims progress on both.' Richard McDermott, a consultant, tells Wessel such a management structure is unusual: 'People...see it as a real democratic institution in what is otherwise an authoritarian institution, a business.' Wessel notes: 'Other companies, apparently, are scared of that.'"
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Self-Governing Online Worker Communities

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  • mine too (Score:5, Funny)

    by jafac (1449) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @05:56PM (#13402338) Homepage
    My company, , is also doing this - establishing "communities of interest".

    I figure, they'd rather I spent my time blogging with other employees than jerks like you. :)
    • Re:mine too (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sentri (910293)
      What it comes down to is companies have finally realised "People need friends" Im not suprised it took them so long Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the cube farm *laughs sarcastically* Or perhaps it is just a waste of time?
  • Makes sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Limburgher (523006) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @05:57PM (#13402347) Homepage Journal
    If you give the employees not only tools to effect real positive change but also a sense of ownership, some say in operations and a voice of some type, they'll work harder, do better work, and stick around. Why isn't this common knowledge? I've been workplaces where this was the M.O., and it was great.
    • "Profit is set to be divided equally among workers, and the members elect their supervisors..." Taken from the following Bloomberg article [bloomberg.com].
      • "Profit is set to be divided equally among workers, and the members elect their supervisors..."

        Profit sharing is the only thing that would motivate most workers to participate in this. Your average worker wants their employer to succeed, but only as it positively affects their paycheck. Geologists and IT workers might love their work. The majority of factory workers do not. However, there is a lot of brain power going to waste in those workplaces, because most views go along the lines of "Why should I
    • Re:Makes sense. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      It is common knowledge. It just isn't common practice. We tend to default towards the authoritarian way of doing things. The desire for power over others is very strong indeed. It's good to see some people actually evolving away from that.
  • I am really curious to know how this pans out. Personally, I wouldn't work for anyone else anyway, but I would much rather be involved with a system like this than an authoritative dictatorship. That is what has always turned me away from the old-world style corporations.

    Some people need others telling them what to do, and others work better on their own. Ok, I had to stop myself from being a jerk right there...

    I wonder what the real motivation behind this was though?
    • I'm also curious. This reminds me a great deal of the Iain Banks novel "The Business". It's not a particularly riveting story compared to some of his other works, but it does have the very interesting concept of a huge, democratically run multinational corporation.

      Complete internal financial transparency, leadership elections, and the majority of advancement bonuses paid in company-owned perks - it's always struck me as the single most ideal place to work I've ever heard of.

      I'm also inclined to agree with
  • by Alaren (682568) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:03PM (#13402399)

    I had a professor (the course of study was "The Ethics of Leadership") who penned this [amazon.com] with regard to the nature of "leadership."

    There's a lot of interesting stuff in there, but it boils down to this: given half a chance, people actually work better with others than for others. But the people who tend to get put in positions of leadership are those who like to and want to be leaders--not change the system for the betterment of everyone, but control the system for their own continued benefit.

    I think Schlumberger's work here just backs up what many of us (especially in IT!) know but what "the management" is either too scared or too prideful to admit: we don't really need them.

    • I always enjoy hearing people talk about their ability to work with out management or any form of leadership. I personally have held roles as manager and worker. large groups, or even small ones with head strong people, need leadership.

      There is a right way and a wrong way to lead. Bossing people around, telling them how to do their job, and basically being controlling is no way to lead. Good leaders educate their workers, handle disputes between them and shield them from the red tape and annoyancies
      • "I always enjoy hearing people talk about their ability to work with out management or any form of leadership. I personally have held roles as manager and worker. large groups, or even small ones with head strong people, need leadership."

        Spoken like someone who has truly bought in to the myth. Why do these people "need" leadership? Will they fail at their tasks without it? What is leadership, anyways? If everyone possessed equal authority in that group, and determined that person A would "organize th

        • Why do these people "need" leadership? Will they fail at their tasks without it?

          Without leadership, who gives them the tasks?

          Without leadership, who makes sure they actually do the tasks rather than sitting whining on Slashdot all day?
          • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Alaren (682568) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @11:35PM (#13404270)

            Did you even read my comment?

            Do you have someone who tells you to get up every morning? Tells you to brush your teeth? Moreover, does your "leader" at work give you every task you must accomplish? It is an unwise and slothful servant who needs be commanded in all things...

            In short, though, you missed my point. You have again stated a few functions that we naturally assign to so-called "leaders." There is no reason these functions--such as assigning tasks or overseeing a project--cannot rotate between team members, or be divided as individual roles, or some other method that doesn't involve one person handling all the true decision-making while everyone else does the actual work.

            • You both have it wrong.

              Fundamentally, management represents the interests of the owners. That interest is to create or maintain profits.

              "Leadership" is one way to get profits, especially if you are overseeing a labor force that's not captive, and enjoys low unemployment. Change the economics, or the economic context to high unemployment, and the "tyrant" or "assh---" model of management will start to make more sense.

              The workplace without managers can operate, and well, if the economic situation is r

        • Most of the places I have worked, half my coworkers were idiots. I don't want them having any say on how things should work.
        • what does "relatively absolute" mean?
          • Relative to the power of one's co-workers, one's own power is absolute. But I imagine you could have figured that out on you own if you were reading to understand rather than reading to be a smart-ass. d^_^b
        • The thing about leadership is that it will always exist in one form or another. The difference here is that in companies, leadership is imposed artificially throughout the organization. If you had, say, an organization where decisions were made at their appropriate scope, and leadership emerged naturally (and with the buy-in of those around said leaders), well, we might not have so many people complaining about "leadership."

          I, of course, haven't read the book you mentioned, so I'm not sure what it would h
    • Wasn't it Douglas Adams that said something to the effect of ... "Anyone who wants to be a leader is the least qualified to do a good job of it" -badly paraphrased from HHGTG
  • by macshune (628296) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:04PM (#13402414) Journal
    The article talks about how business-related interest groups can be developed and how they can help the bottom line, but they don't talk about all the other non-business, 'special-interest' groups and how they function within the corporation and how they help productivity & morale, even if the results are less than fiscally apparent.

    Reminds me of this article [joelonsoftware.com] that someone linked to yesterday about how companies can do wonders for recruitment if they use low-cost, high-value devices to lure workers (free soda, juice, lunch, etc).

    Also, did anyone else read 'Wall Street Journal columnist David Wessel' and think 'nuklear' ?
  • It's all so familiar...

    ARTHUR: Old woman!
    DENNIS: Man!
    ARTHUR: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
    DENNIS: I'm thirty seven.
    ARTHUR: What?
    DENNIS: I'm thirty seven -- I'm not old!
    ARTHUR: Well, I can't just call you `Man'.
    DENNIS: Well, you could say `Dennis'.
    ARTHUR: Well, I didn't know you were called `Dennis.'
    DENNIS: Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?
    ARTHUR: I did say sorry about the `old woman,' but from the
    behind you looked--
    DENNIS: What I object to is you automatically treat me
    • You don't have to quote the whole thing,.. once we hear the begining we can finish it off.
      • It doesn't even have to be the first line.....

        "It's only a model..."
        "What's yer favourite colour?"
        "it's only a flesh wound!"
        "Where? Behind the rabbit?"
        "...and they had to eat Robin's troubadours.."
        "4 shalt thou not count"

        btw - wasn't it "...I'm being oppressed!"??
  • Voting Your Shares (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:08PM (#13402441) Homepage Journal
    Professionals have organized democratic professional organizations for centuries. In fact, the high rate of "society" membership among American colonists was one way they were prepared to design the longest-lasting democratic republic to date: the USA. Americans have continued to be "joiners".

    What is changing is that these organizations are now possible, with low management overhead, within large organizations, due to increasingly cheap and complex comms tech, that's also easy to use. Scientific and engineering professionals are among the most likely to join professional organizations that elect leaders, and to use these techs. And our jobs are so complicated that they need to leverage our social skills to manage productivity. While those skills are increasingly unavailable to "management specialists" who therefore aren't really scientists or engineers. So the "privatization" of these communities is inevitable.

    Of course, the Wall Street Journal won't see it that way. They instead see it as the "democritization of the workplace". Which it is, also. But that's because democracy is the best way for complex groups of productive people to specialize and work together. The WSJ inability to see it that way, to see it as a source of fear for other companies, says more about their attitude towards democracy than about their understanding of professional working structures.
    • The Wall Street Journal, voted best newspaper to wipe your ass with by the Homeless Stock Crash Victims Association six years running.
    • You forgot Iceland (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ...to design the longest-lasting democratic republic to date: the USA

      You might want to learn a thing or to about history [wikipedia.org].

      • by Procyon101 (61366)
        From the wiki: ...The constitution, written in 1874, was revised in 1903...

        The existing government isn't that old. It's only the parliment, which in times past has been relegated only to tradition, through blood feuds and near monarchies, that is really old.
      • You Invented Iceland (Score:3, Informative)

        by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I'm always ready to believe the best about Iceland. But even that Wikipedia entry tells how Iceland was controlled by the Danish king as recently as the 1900s:

        "n 1874, a thousand years after the first acknowledged settlement, Denmark granted Iceland home rule, which again was extended in 1904. The constitution, written in 1874, was revised in 1903, and a minister for Icelandic affairs, residing in Reykjavík, was made responsible to the Alingi. The Act of Union, a December 1, 1918, agreement with Denmar
    • If voluntary associations had so much to do with the creation of the Nation then why did it fight a brutal and bloody civil war 70 years later to enforce an INvoluntary association? (the union)
      • I'll take your specious question seriously: Because the South was in danger of becoming one of our enemies, and associating with them to our mutual destruction. Though, with your take on the Union, I suspect that you're still fighting that war down in Dixie, and think the Confederacy would still be whistlin' today. Along with its INvoluntary association of black people to chains.
    • To be fair the WSJ was quoting a consultant who said that some other companies are scared of the idea. It wasn't WSJ's fear, nor even the consultants fear. So I don't think you can really infer anything about how the WSJ views democracy from this article.
      • Of course you can infer things from the writer's selection of what they report. The WSJ writer decided that the "fear" quote was valid and appropriate to the story they're telling. It resonated with the writer, and they told us to think it.

        Whether we do think it is up to us. Whether it resonates with us. Whether we corroborate it with our own experience, or contradict it. Whether we accept the bias of the writer, of merely use it for parallax. If you can't read a newspaper, especially one as politicized as
  • Wessels (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by lilrowdy18 (870767)
    Walter Koenig: When we woke up, we had these bodies.
    Fry: Say it in Russian.
    Walter Koenig: [groans] Ven we voke up, we had these wodies.
    Fry: [delighted] Wheeee. Now say "nuclear wessels".
    Walter Koenig: NO.
  • Check out Semco (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:18PM (#13402519)
    A Brazilian company that has been democratic for 20 years [mondaymemo.net], and a book review [ibm.com] (with excerpt [co-intelligence.org]).
    • He fired most of the top managers and got rid of most management layers; there are now three. He eliminated nearly all job titles. There's still a CEO, but a half-dozen senior managers trade the title every six months, in March and September

      Doesn't sound like democracy, more like getting rid of middle management and placing more trust at the worker level.
      • Re:Check out Semco (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That was the first step. Read further. For instance,

        "The autonomous team idea was adopted throughout the company. As it evolved the teams began hiring and firing both workers and supervisors by democratic vote."
  • ... but it works... PDA & Smartphone Optimized Sites [mobileoptimized.com]
  • Nice try... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moviepig.com (745183) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:30PM (#13402599) Homepage
    Turnout in early elections was an impressive 60%, but it since has fallen to 30%.

    Golly, it does sound like a real democracy...

    The puzzle for large corporations employing highly skilled professionals is how to tap and maintain entrepreneurial vigor. I don't see clearly whether Schlumberger has pulled this off, but kudos for a creative try.

  • by Azul (12241) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:32PM (#13402607) Homepage
    Novell has very similar communities. You can read a little bit about them in this article [novell.com] of Novell's Connection Magazine (and, as you can see, this article is about 1 1/2 years old):

    From Architecture to Secure Identity Management (SIM), Analytics to exteNd, Novell employees are putting their heads together in Communities of Practice. At Novell, Communities are more than just a group of like-minded individuals talking shop. They provide a primary information source for members, while promoting networking and fostering a culture that values and encourages knowledge sharing and collaboration.


    While our communities aren't entirely self-governing, this doesn't seem to matter much in practice. Participation in them is entirely optional. Being a co-leader of one of these communities, I can tell you Novell greatly recognizes their value...
  • Democratic??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wwwrench (464274) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:51PM (#13402727) Homepage
    I'm all for democracy in the workplace, after all, why only demand democracy and freedom from our governments. But really, if a company views this as a way to motivate its workers to improve the bottom line, then it isn't genuine -- you just give your workers enough freedom so that they shut up and work harder for you. Can the workers fire the CEO? Cap his/her salary? Decide the company should do good in the world rather than just exist to enrich shareholders?

    There are steps towards genuine democracy in the workplace, like the recuperated factory movement in Argentina where factory workers refused to shut down the factories that were closing and instead, run them themselves, for themselves, and for the community. We really need to recognize that we don't live in a fully democratic society if we spend most of our waking hours working in what is effectively a tyranny.
    • Re:Democratic??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mpost4 (115369) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:56PM (#13402770) Homepage Journal
      But really, if a company views this as a way to motivate its workers to improve the bottom line, then it isn't genuine -- you just give your workers enough freedom so that they shut up and work harder for you. Can the workers fire the CEO? Cap his/her salary? Decide the company should do good in the world rather than just exist to enrich shareholders?

      I think the concept you are trying to describe is a Cooperative [wikipedia.org]

    • There is a name for what you're describing, and that's syndicalism. Let a bunch of workers get together and form syndicates, as they bumble and stumble along towards bankruptcy. Of course, the reality is that, in such a system, if there is freedom, workers would be able to sell their shares of ownership, and concentration in ownership could (and most likely would, due to specialization) arise.

      However, within corporations as most of them exist now, the sole purpose of that corporation is to enrich shareholde
      • In cooperatives every member has one vote, not vote per share like in stock companies. Power can't concentrate if one can never have more than one vote and everyone has the equal chance to communicate their message. Vote per head in no way clashes with freedom. It guarantees it, unlike vote per buck which concentrates power and thus removes freedom from those without many bucks.
        • People don't "lose freedom" by working for companies: it was a voluntary choice. What you're describing -- the syndicate form of organization -- is one (usually foolish) form of organization that could be laid out in a corporate charter. Any arrangement that people enter into voluntarily -- of their own free will -- is compatible with freedom. A syndicate just happens to be a very foolish form of organization. See Mises, Ludwig von. Syndicalism and Corporatism. [mises.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The House Un-American Activities Committee should investigate them.
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:05PM (#13402837) Homepage
    The official name for companies in ex-Yu was WO, for "Workers' Organization." So instead of Microsoft Corp, in communist ex-Yu it would have been "WO Microsoft." These were self-governed, but eventually power structures would emerge often due to family and political connections. I'd love to know how this experiment works out.
  • by albeit (668367) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:31PM (#13402978)

    The US economy is more efficient than the Soviet ever was precisely because decisions can be made by those with better access to relevant information and individuals are free to make decisions that best suit their own interests. They voluntarily align their interests with others through enforceable contracts. Control from the top over how individuals allocate their resources is counterproductive. What is important is a stable, predictable legal framework and a solid, unmanipulated currency.

    The same principle also work with a corporation. Investable assets should be controlled by those who have proven their good judgement and how they invest those assets, say in new products and services, should be guided by the information they have, not directives from on high (not that those are never suitable, sometimes they are).

    There are many mechanisms which can put into place that leverage the capabilities of a free market. This is quite different, actually, from democracy, where everyone decides what the organization does. Each player actually decides the best use of the assets he has, rather than trying to decide what others should do.

    In such an environment, leadership focusses on building this framework, creating incentives and making the system work better, rather than on dictating what should be done within the framework.

    • One of the elements that makes the economy work is a system of prices. People don't know what effort goes into creating something or making a service available; they only care about the price they have to pay. This enables them to focus on their particular part of the equation. So a system of prices for the factors of production available within a company that accurately reflect the costs involved in making those things available is essential to make such a system work. Otherwise, assests are allocated
    • "..US economy is more efficient than the Soviet..." - it is not over yet. Soviet system evolves, the US system is frozen. The US system brought ecologically disastrous economy, which can not exist without wars for resources.
      • If you want to see an ecologically disastrous economy, I suggest you go visit the former Soviet Union (Chernobyl, Aral Sea, etc.) or, even better, China.
    • There are many mechanisms which can put into place that leverage the capabilities of a free market. This is quite different, actually, from democracy, where everyone decides what the organization does. Each player actually decides the best use of the assets he has, rather than trying to decide what others should do.

      Kudos to you for being an honest "capitalist". Most never admit that capitalism isn't democratic.

      You make a serious error, however. Democracy isn't founded on people deciding what "others"

    • Amusing version of efficiency theory. You're assuming that people actually know what is going on so that they can make meaningful choices.

      It works rather differently in Bushevik Amerika. Whether they are selling you laundry soap, gasoline, or an eternal war on terrorism, they are not going to reveal any more of the truth than is convenient. Whatever is necessary to manipulate the sheeple is the rule. What happens if the truth is a "problem"? In that case, lies are no problem. At least that's how they see

  • Being an oil company in last times give you a lot of freedom to play.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:51PM (#13403097)
    If a business is self-governing, one wonders why a dividend check would be going out every month to the company owners. What are they doing? The workers are doing all the work, the workers are managing the company, all the owners are doing is taking a profit from the wealth created by the workers. For part of the day the workers are earning their own wages, for part of the day they are working for free, all the wealth they're creating in that period going to profit.. You could say capital reinvestment, but capital reinvestment does not go into a dividend check, and that money was created by the workers anyhow. It is just a grand ripoff, no different than serfs plowing wheat, or slaves picking cotton. Democratic indeed, it's not democratic at all unless you own it. There are much better examples of what is really a more democratic workplace. Like this [mondragon.mcc.es] for example. This sounds like one of those "safety circles" corporations set up, in an attempt to prevent any kind of democratic controll in the workplace.
    • The stockholders provided the capital to get things going and, in the case of a public company, additional capital in the IPO and any subsequent offerings.

      They put real money at risk and are entitled to a return just as you are when you place your money in the bank. Except their return is not guaranteed and their entire investment could be lost. They are entitled to as much of a reward as their good judgement and tolerance for risk earns them.

      • Your argument is tautological - the system should be flawed due to a flaw in a system. Why should there be any "risk" at all? If one goes back to the 16th century, a blacksmith and a tanner would come to an agreement - the blacksmith would work a few hours on a few horseshoes, the tanner would work a few hours on a hide, and then they would trade. If the blacksmith didn't know someone needed a horseshoe, and would pay him (or the tanner with the hide for that manner), he wouldn't make one. Yet you talk
        • Why should there be any "risk" at all? If one goes back to the 16th century, a blacksmith and a tanner would come to an agreement - the blacksmith would work a few hours on a few horseshoes, the tanner would work a few hours on a hide, and then they would trade. If the blacksmith didn't know someone needed a horseshoe, and would pay him (or the tanner with the hide for that manner), he wouldn't make one.

          There is always risk. The blacksmith took the risk, he has tools, workshop, training. He invested his
          • You are not talking about reality, but in the theoretical lala-land that most American economists are in. The type of modern capital risk nowadays is not a blacksmith who paid off his anvil and hammer years ago deciding whether or not to make a new horseshoe, it is a factory producing millions of horseshoes, and not knowing whether or not anyone wants to buy them. Often, no one does. The effects of this problem were alluded [msnbc.com] to by former GE CEO Jack Welch recently, "I think...you have a lot of capacity. S
            • The type of modern capital risk nowadays is not a blacksmith who paid off his anvil and hammer years ago deciding whether or not to make a new horseshoe, it is a factory producing millions of horseshoes, and not knowing whether or not anyone wants to buy them.

              I addressed that issue, the higher level of risk you are talking about is what gave rise to the corporate system. In fact the corporate system allows people to control their risk exposure. Let's say nobody wants horseshoes. While on the whole the
        • ahh, i wasn't logged in. great. now i'm a coward because i can't get an error message when i mistype my password.

          anyway, enough of my complaining. i'm the one who just posted about antimarkets.
      • They put real money at risk and are entitled to a return just as you are when you place your money in the bank. Except their return is not guaranteed and their entire investment could be lost. They are entitled to as much of a reward as their good judgement and tolerance for risk earns them.

        Umm... not to get too nitpicky, but your first sentence contradicts your second and third. The first is incorrect. The second and third are less so.

        People who buy securities are mostly speculating on future profits

        • I'll dumb it down for you.

          They put their money at risk and are entitled to *whatever return they can get*. There. No more contradiction. If you feel the people who made those investments don't "deserve" the money they make, you're perfectly free to buy those investments off them and make that money yourself. I'm sure if you offer enough money, they'll bite. Just like if you try to start a company and go to investors, hat in hand, asking for capital while telling them "oh by the way, we're going to limi
    • Perhaps these workers could take some of their wages and invest that in stock ownership somewhere, and a share of corporate profits - along with the risks.

      This will obviously not work for the the people who spend all their money on consumer products. That leaves the people stuck in low wage jobs. I'd rather have a low wage job in a 21st century western democracy then be the serf you mentioned plowing wheat.
  • i would love to work this way.

    too commonly is the workplace filled with smart people at the bottom doing the work while people who aren't smart enough to do the work get promoted up to become managers just because they are more well-spoken.

    in my opinion the team should elect its own manager.

    unfortunately we are subject to everyone trying to climb over each other and if you don't and you decide to stay where you are because you enjoy what you do and are good at it, they start pressing people to "spend time i
    • in my opinion the team should elect its own manager.

      Who would you elect? The guy who is nice to everybody, knows exactly how the job can be done, can mentor you, but isn't very well spoken, and not abrasive enough to attack somebody else when they are wavering. Or the guy who may not know as much, is well spoken, able to debate and subvert others arguments, and is agressively trying to get ahead.
      Now before you answer, remember this guy is representing you to higher management. He will likely be debatin
      • Some people *can* switch hit, of course.

        serv: this is to the person you're replying.

        The thing to remember, as a technical worker, is that there's a symbiotic relationship between you and the company. You get to specialize and avoid developing advanced political skills (which you really should develop) and the owners get to make scads of money off your highly skilled labor.

        OK, that didn't come out quite right.

        Suppose you were a freelancer. You'd soon find that you'd want to hire people to do things

      • I understand your point about ambition, we do have ambition, the people who work in our field who studied CS and graduated from top univerisities didn't come into this field dreaming of becoming a politics manager, we love computer science and we have the ambition in technology and science. Most managers I would say are not ambitious about that field of study, but are ambitious to their own selfish means (make more money, appear more powerful)

        Here really it's not one or the other that would make the best ma
        • We do possess these skills, the problem is not -us-, the problem is the image you have inside your head that the techies are just coders.

          But as you pointed out, "very rarely can we ever -just- do our work." Most people just want to get their work done. Some may possess the skills to manage, but not possess the desire to deal with the political issues. But those issues have to be dealt with by somebody

          Most managers I would say are not ambitious about that field of study, but are ambitious to their own
    • I understand your point about ambition, we do have ambition, the people who work in our field who studied CS and graduated from top univerisities didn't come into this field dreaming of becoming a politics manager, we love computer science and we have the ambition in technology and science. Most managers I would say are not ambitious about that field of study, but are ambitious to their own selfish means (make more money, appear more powerful)

      Here really it's not one or the other that would make the best ma
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a Schlumberger employee who recently moved from the semiconductor industry to the oil industry - I can't say enough good things about Schlumberger's online community efforts. One of the MANY reasons I walked away from my former employer was the piss poor way they handled (or didn't handle) knowledge management. My former employer, despite being a "high tech" company was very low tech in terms of knowledge sharing and shared learning. Schlumberger is so far ahead in this respect there is really no comp
  • Before you break out your Little Red Books and start chanting "Workers of the World Unite!" you may want to RTFA.

    The "Eureka Groups" mentioned in the article were formed for the express purpose of fostering the development of expertise and sharing of knowledge within the larger organization. The groups were self-governing in that they elected "leaders", but these people--and everyone else in the groups--had day jobs. They all had bosses. Their bosses had bosses, and their bosses' bosses... and so on..

  • 'Other companies, apparently, are scared of that.'


    I'm not surprised. How long before elected managers start bearing a resemblance to our society's elected officials. I don't want politicians vying fo my vote in the workplace.
  • Wessel notes: 'Other companies, apparently, are scared of that.' BS. Just because a company doesn't understand how a concept might possibly work doesn't mean they're scared of it.
  • So who is going to be the first who is fired via wiki consensus?
  • This sounds like the Knowledge Mangement concept of Communities of Practice from Wenger.

    If you put together people with similar knowledge and interests, the idea is that this can be a forum for learning and problem solving through interactions with the group.

    http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/ls s.shtml [co-i-l.com]

    This is a reasonably popular concept in Knowledge Management.
  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @11:20PM (#13404138) Homepage
    "'People...see it as a real democratic institution in what is otherwise an authoritarian institution, a business.' Wessel notes: 'Other companies, apparently, are scared of that.'"

    Ooh, I'm scared too! While it sounds revolutionary, it actually is not. Just give employees who are already the most inclined to participate in corporate office politics a bit of press and possibly some budget for meetings and other activities, and this is what you get. I was at a biotech company that did this with their scientists. After three years or so, not much had come of it but inflated egos and a lot of hot air.

  • There's even a Schlumberger Spouse's Association: http://www.ssafara.net/ [ssafara.net]

    (I have to admit having envy over that concept)
  • In Soviet Russia, you are The Boss! wait a moment...
  • by zero0w (572225) on Friday August 26, 2005 @01:18AM (#13404842)

    Well, this self-governing community is not exactly a new idea. Peter Drucker [wikipedia.org] actually advised General Motors to do ths same back in 1946, as recorded in his first Management book Concept of the Corporation.

    General Motors didn't buy this idea and even thought it was some sort of usurpation and opportunist bet. Its CEO back then, Alfred Sloan, wrote a book in response to these suggestions and requests - My Years with General Motors.

    Even though American companies missed the boat in forming better corporate governance by creating such self-governance communities, the Japanese picked up the idea. Of course they had a somewhat different goal to what it means to start a business, but in general this helped many Japanese companies to rise and shine at the level of where they are today - many world class manufacturers and industrialists.

  • As an SLB employee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I can vouch for the relative accuracy of the article. The communities are indeed self governing and an excellent way to exchange ideas among the (many) technical people in the organisation. Moreover, the knowledge management strategy is streets ahead of anything I've seen in other organisations. There isn't really any interference from upper level management, except when funding might be requested for technical conferences and the like. I know when I came up as a junior engineer, the bulletin boards and com
  • Tried that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mergatoriod (149240)
    I suggested creating a chatroom for different interest groups 5 years ago and the idea was dismissed out of hand. I was working for a UK MOD contractor. It suprised me that management was so adverse to having employees discuss their opinions in an open forum, the benefits to me seemed to be that new starters would be able to search past posts to answer the questions that all new starters are afraid of asking. It seems to be related to the addage 'think a lot, say very little, write nothing'. The written
  • puts forward something very similar to this -- as I recall, the scientific colonists on Mars change some of human society to better fit the new conditions they find on the red planet. The various research units organize into non-hierarchical collectives of just this sort. This book, along with its sequels Green Mars and Blue Mars are based on disrupting the last remains of Earth's feudal legacy: corporations.
  • by Quietti (257725) on Friday August 26, 2005 @02:26PM (#13410220) Journal
    Whether dealing with career Congress critters or with petty ass kissers at the job, the result is the same: it's a popularity contest, not a meritocracy. As such, I really don't care whether the company hierarchy is based upon old boys' network motivated management decisions or by a popularity contest among the proles in the department; workplace hierarchy is completely flawed and totally biased regardless.
  • Wow...I think that's the first time I've ever seen a GeoE referenced in a main page /. article...

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