This past month I attended a ConnectedCommons webinar on Patagonia’s culture of collaboration.
Here are some thoughts on the key points Chris Mason brought up - recruit based on mission-match, democratize (!), and use HR tools that serve the employees
Would love to keep the discussion open :)
Thanks Michal, I really appreciate you posting this and sharing here, particularly during school holidays in Israel, and please do pass my appreciation to your kids.I also caught the webinar and agree it was a great session, and that Patagonia is obviously a very special, and social, company.
I also agree that democracy is major aspect of what makes them special and that this should definitely be seen as a key way of developing social capital.
At the same time, I think there are a number of other lessons from their experience which can be adopted by more normal firms, eg:
- The use of networks (Patagonia’s committees for deciding policies on use of bikes and skateboards etc) which can be used on top of existing organisational units (functions/hierarchies and networks rather than just from one to the other)
- The alignment of HR and other processes and practices with their chosen form of organisation, eg Chris talked about choosing a performance feedback tool (HighGround) which aligned with their desire to put the employee in charge of their own performance
It’s interesting to see that HighGround also positions itself as a tool for supporting social capital: https://www.cmswire.com/digital-workplace/why-hr-leaders-should-think-like-economists-and-promote-social-capital.
I'd definitely encourage other members to read your notes on the session, and would love to see more views here too.
By the way I’ll be presenting on Connected Common’s next webinar on 24 October and will be speaking more specifically about social capital as well as mentioning this community. I hope you and other members will be able to join me online then!
Thank you for your kind words and for keeping the discussion going Jon.
I completely agree with you that 'network practices' are not the sole property of democratized organizations. Fostering meaningful relationships, getting people together around shared interests, building communication skills, recognizing and rewarding value-creation... these are all practices that can be adopted by any organization starting today.
With that being said, I do believe that in the uncertain, fast-changing, highly complex times, organizations would benefit from taking the network perspective into the work itself (on top of the committee example that focused on the shared working environment). Moreover, I see a difference between functions and hierarchy. If I take the method of Organizational Network Analysis, I would use 'function' as a nodal attribute (i.e. the domain of expertise that characterizes the person), but I would use 'hierarchy' as a tie (i.e. the formal relationship between two people). In that sense, the hierarchy and the informal network are two ways in which we think of the functions coming together to get work done.
These two systems can exist together but two main points to consider: (1) the alignment between the two, and (2) the organizational resources we invest. This second point relates to the alignment of HR and other processes. Being focused on democratization leads Patagonia to invest in 'network tools'. I could think of many other organizations that may choose to invest in more ''top-down' tools to help the hierarchy work better.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and to the webinar on the 24th!