Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Self-Governing Online Worker Communities

CowboyNeal posted about 9 years ago | from the talk-amongst-yourselves dept.

Businesses 139

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.'"

cancel ×

139 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

mine too (4, Funny)

jafac (1449) | about 9 years ago | (#13402338)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402403)

well we think they're jerks too.

Re:mine too (3, Insightful)

Sentri (910293) | about 9 years ago | (#13402613)

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?

Sort of like digg.com vs. slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Radres (776901) | about 9 years ago | (#13402342)

I like how on digg.com the users pick the stories but here it's all up to CmdrTaco.

Re:Sort of like digg.com vs. slashdot (1)

Fyre2012 (762907) | about 9 years ago | (#13402382)

CowboyNeal picked this story, not CmdrTaco
or were you trying to be funny?

and we all know how well that works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402392)

99% of digg.com stories are utter crap. If you're looking for an endless stream of Firefox/Google/Freeware links, you'll be quite happy there. If you're looking for anything interesting, you've got to dig pretty deep as it will never hit the front page.

They have a discussion system of sorts, but there is absolutely no point in trying to discuss anything with those idiots. If you think slashdot is full of immature fanboys, you ain't seen nothing yet sister.

Re:Schlumberger (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402484)

Schlumberger was (is?) a great and magic engineering company, and is kind of unique regarding diversity and readyness to try new things (first corporate adopter of Cisco, Netscape and maybe the largest owner of IP adresses and the largest corporate network in the 80s).

Well anyhow, I salute Claude Baudoin and the other peoples behind this initiative. In his Powerpoint presentation of Eureka and the technical communities, there was a Dilbert comics, which infuriated some of the pointy-haired bosses at the time.

Cheers, to the good old days.

J

Re:Schlumberger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403908)

...there was a Dilbert comics, which infuriated some of the pointy-haired bosses at the time.

Oh, I forget which division of which company this was, other than it was not oilfield services:
http://www.mindspring.com/~benbradley/dilbert_and_ boss.jpg [mindspring.com]

Chill-out Radres... (4, Funny)

turtleAJ (910000) | about 9 years ago | (#13402608)

Ok, this story wasn't posted by CmdrTaco...
In addition, I suggest you chill out... if provoked, there have been rumors of CmdrTaco commanding attacks towards his blasphemous underlings.
You see, phase 1 of the attack would see to it that your eMails and IP #s are posted on /.
Phase 2 would see your DSL connection burst in flames to the ground as eMail just pours in from all over the world... heck! You've got your computer sending you eMail!
By his all-mighty /. powers, Taco will then cause an attack on your different communications mediums... By using a combination of Java/WAP, your phone will also explode into a trillion fragments... All this by a direct attack on the open ports of your system (DNS, TCP and many, many other funny acronyms)...
By the same token, your cable/TV connection will receive an quantum encrypted channel 13 video feed... This will cause your TV's CRT beams to converge on a dedicated spot, which will, obviously melt the front glass an cause all sorts of mortal electron beam reflections throughout your house.
After extensive research, I've found out that when Taco is on a run, he's unstopabble...
After commanding any and all electronic devices that contain an electronic gate within (hell, a light switch will do!), Taco will use secret HTML/XML and some RSS feeds to jump onto your house's X10 electrical network.
Ultimately, he'll be able to broadcast massive InfraRed codes into your neighborgh's homes... Such IR codes will hi-jack your Jetta's stereo system and cause it to run-off in the middle of the night! This, using google Maps and some clever C# programming in unison with the feedback obtained from your town's traffic system.

In conclusion, chill out Radres... chill out.
and don't tune into channel 13

Makes sense. (4, Insightful)

Limburgher (523006) | about 9 years ago | (#13402347)

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.

Pushing the idea a little further (1)

Mario B (22319) | about 9 years ago | (#13402708)

"Profit is set to be divided equally among workers, and the members elect their supervisors..." Taken from the following Bloomberg article [bloomberg.com] .

Re:Pushing the idea a little further (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | about 9 years ago | (#13404620)

"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 give them ideas? Any extra money it saves/makes goes into management pockets. Screw that."

I personally go to work for the paycheck. I save my brain for personal projects which I do because I love to do them. Unless my employer tied profits to my paycheck, I'm not giving them extra work for free. Communistic capitalism, which is how I think of this, can work... but only if it serves a definite capitalistic purpose. Nobody but the devoted really care if their company grows if that same worker hasn't gotten a raise in 5 years. In fact, they are probably hoping it fails just so they can get on unemployment and get paid to look for a better job.

I'm sure someone can show that the economics show that helpful workers earn more, but on a personal level, it really doesn't work that way very often. This is what drives entrepreneurs. You get out only what you put into a work. When you punch a time clock, you get the same whether you put in 110% or the bare minimum not to get fired.

Re:Makes sense. (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | about 9 years ago | (#13402738)

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.

If it was so great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402854)

Why'd you leave? ;-)

Re:Makes sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403158)

I get this all the time. The answer? Borrowing from the Anarchist Theory FAQ (and revising it to apply to this concern), which is strangely relevant to this topic:

Some have argued that if workers had the genuine option to work for a capitalist employer, or else work for themselves in a worker cooperative, virtually all workers would choose the latter. Moreover, workers in a worker-managed firm would have higher morale and greater incentive to work hard compared with workers who just worked for the benefit of their employer. Hence, capitalists would be unable to pay their workers wages competitive with the wages of the labor-managed firm, and by force of competition would gradually vanish.

However, the the argument can work in precisely the opposite direction. For what is a worker-owned firm if not a firm in which the workers jointly hold all of the stock? Now this is a peculiarly irrational portfolio to hold, because it means that workers would, in effect, put all their eggs in one basket; if their firm does well, they grow rich, but if their firm goes bankrupt, they lose everything. It would make much more sense for workers to exchange their shares in their own firm to buy shares in other firms in order to insure themselves against risk. Thus, the probable result of worker-owned firms with negotiable shares would be that workers would readily and advantageously sell off most of their shares in their own firm in order to diversify their portfolios. The end result is likely to be the standard form of capitalist organization, in which workers receive a fixed payment for their services and the owners of the firms' shares earn the variable profits. Of course, alienation of shares could be banned, but this appears to do nothing except force workers to live with enormous financial risk. None of this shows that worker-owned firms could not persist if the workers were so ideologically committed to worker control that their greater productivity outweighed the riskiness of the workers' situation; but many doubt very much that such intense ideology would prevail in more than a small portion of the population. Indeed, they expect that the egalitarian norms and security from dismissal that co-op proponents typically favor would grossly undermine everyone's incentive to work hard and kill abler workers' desire for advancement.

Some go further and argue that inequality would swiftly re-emerge in an co-op based economy. Workers would treat their jobs as a sort of property right, and would refuse to hire new workers on equal terms because doing so would dilute the current workers' shares in the firm's profits. The probable result would be that an elite class of workers in capital-intensive firms would exploit new entrants into the work force much as capitalists allegedly do today. As evidence, they point to existing "worker-controlled" firms such as law firms -- normally they consist of two tiers of workers, one of which both works and owns the firm ("the partners"), while the remainder are simply employees ("the associates" as well as the secretaries, clerks, etc.)

This is an excellent idea (1)

veganopolis (630667) | about 9 years ago | (#13402393)

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?

Re:This is an excellent idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402847)

This style of non-hierarchial management
gained some attention about 5-7 years ago
and was tried by a number of companies.
It turned out to be a disaster. No one has
yet to come up with a management organization
that works bettern than the hierarchial
structure.

Re:This is an excellent idea (1)

BrainInAJar (584756) | about 9 years ago | (#13403179)

Let me paraphrase that before I comment:
"This style of non-hierarchial government gained some attention about 250-270 years ago and was tried by a number of countries. It turned out to be a disaster. No one has yet to come up with a government organization that works bettern than the hierarchial structure."

Sometimes it's not about efficiency

Re:This is an excellent idea (1)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | about 9 years ago | (#13405691)

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 Paul Graham - normal employer/employee relationships are basically holdovers from master/servant roles [paulgraham.com] , and so artificially restrictive and inefficient in the modern day workplace.

sure there are always people who'll need a goodkick up the arse, but why does that have to come from a boss, and not their co-workers. If you vote for your boss and you can vote to have people fired/demoted, it's more likely people will get punished for being crap in the opinion of the majority of people they work with, not just the boss's opinion. Whose opinion do you trust more?

"Leaderless" Organizations (4, Interesting)

Alaren (682568) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (2, Interesting)

xero314 (722674) | about 9 years ago | (#13403058)

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 that are in all large companies.

I don't think it's a hard and fast rule, but I think you would have a hard time finding a reasonable sized company (say 25 or more) made up entirely of equals taking equal share in the work and responsibility.

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (1)

Alaren (682568) | about 9 years ago | (#13403189)

"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 the workload," does that mean person A should also have the ability to hire and fire, to set salaries, to be privy to secret information, to have the final say in every other aspect of the project, and so forth? Most leaders carry out necessary functions, this I will grant--but those functions tend to be vested all in one person with relatively absolute authority, and that is what our culture has come to see as a "leader." There is no reason these powers must all rest in one person when they might just as easily be handed out among the group.

"I think you would have a hard time finding a reasonable sized company (say 25 or more) made up entirely of equals taking equal share in the work and responsibility."

You should check out Jeff's book. He actually addresses this and discusses many organizations--large ones--which have taken up this approach. Usually there's still some vestiges of leadership--like maybe the owner and a chief financial officer--but formal "management" and "leadership" positions simply do not exist.

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (2, Insightful)

drsquare (530038) | about 9 years ago | (#13403395)

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? (3, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (2, Insightful)

MontyApollo (849862) | about 9 years ago | (#13403499)

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.

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (1)

verus vorago (843807) | about 9 years ago | (#13403995)

what does "relatively absolute" mean?

It means... (1)

Alaren (682568) | about 9 years ago | (#13404221)

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

Re:"Leaderless" Organizations (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | about 9 years ago | (#13404573)

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

Can't be true! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13405145)

That can't be true! It sounds much too much like anarchy, and that I've been told over and over will never work.

WSJ written article and it shows (4, Insightful)

macshune (628296) | about 9 years ago | (#13402414)

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' ?

Re:WSJ written article and it shows (1)

winkydink (650484) | about 9 years ago | (#13402437)

Do you mean nuke-u-lure?

People forget that Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer and he pronounced it the same way.

Think ST:IV (1)

NickFortune (613926) | about 9 years ago | (#13402777)

Jimmy Carter pronounced it the same way as Pavel Checkov? Wow...

I'd never have had Carted pegged for a ruskie

Re:WSJ written article and it shows (0, Offtopic)

chris_eineke (634570) | about 9 years ago | (#13403240)

Isn't this what they call "anectodal evidence"? Just because this Jimmy Carter guy was a POTUS and a nuclear engineer doesn't mean that we have to fall on our knees and chant:

"NUUUUUUUUUUUKUUUUUUUUUUUULAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!"

Would GWB be considered anectodal evidence for the POTUS being a chimp?

Re:WSJ written article and it shows (2, Interesting)

superspaz (902023) | about 9 years ago | (#13402650)

Good article. Funny how many professional HR people miss such things. I can't describe how much natural lighting improves my mood even when working in a cube farm. I'd be willing to take a 5% cut in pay to work in real light rather than in florecent hell.

Strangely Familiar (1, Redundant)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 years ago | (#13402431)

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 like an
inferior!
ARTHUR: Well, I AM king...
DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. An' how'd you get that, eh? By exploitin' the workers -- by 'angin' on to our outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an' social differences in our society! If there's ever going to be any progress--
WOMAN: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh -- how d'you do?
ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the
Britons. Who's castle is that?
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That's what it's all about if only people would--
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN: No one live there.
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don't have a lord.
ARTHUR: What?
DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
ARTHUR: Yes.
DENNIS: But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: --but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.
WOMAN: Well, 'ow did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, [angels sing] her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you hear that, did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn't you?

Re:Strangely Familiar (1)

tregetour (903016) | about 9 years ago | (#13402555)

You don't have to quote the whole thing,.. once we hear the begining we can finish it off.

Re:Strangely Familiar (2, Funny)

Scooter (8281) | about 9 years ago | (#13403060)

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 (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13402441)

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.

Re:Voting Your Shares (2, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 years ago | (#13402486)

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 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402503)

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

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

Re:You forgot Iceland (2, Informative)

Procyon101 (61366) | about 9 years ago | (#13403043)

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 (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13403107)

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 Denmark, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state united with Denmark under a common king. Iceland established its own flag and asked that Denmark represent its foreign affairs and defense interests. The Act would be up for revision in 1940 and could be revoked three years later, if an agreement wasn't reached."

  That's hardly a democratic republic, not the way the US Constitution sets one out.

Re:Voting Your Shares (1)

lamp540 (644770) | about 9 years ago | (#13403070)

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)

Re:Voting Your Shares (1, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13403238)

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.

Re:Voting Your Shares (1)

skubeedooo (826094) | about 9 years ago | (#13405870)

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.

Wessels (1, Offtopic)

lilrowdy18 (870767) | about 9 years ago | (#13402467)

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.

Wessel (0, Offtopic)

parasonic (699907) | about 9 years ago | (#13402491)

GAH! Wessel? More like weasel. Now that this has gone public, I'll never be self-elected to project manager assistant.

Re:Wessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402559)

Kiptin! Sensor readin's indicate that ancient starship is rilly a nuclear WESSEL!

Check out Semco (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402519)

A Brazilian company that has been democratic for 20 years [mondaymemo.net] , and a book review [ibm.com] (with excerpt [co-intelligence.org] ).

Re:Check out Semco (0)

servognome (738846) | about 9 years ago | (#13403061)

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 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403451)

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."

In Soviet Russia (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402531)

(Subject of title) (verb of title in present tense) YOU!

Bazaar Leadership. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402558)

"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."

I have a book that talks about a similiar thing happening in a Brazillian (oil?) company. Mind you this is before the Internet made it big.

"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.'""

So is he saying that Schlumberger wasn't scared of it before?

--
"The "are you a script" word for today is ambition

Nice try... (3, Interesting)

moviepig.com (745183) | about 9 years ago | (#13402599)

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.

Communities of Practice at Novell (3, Interesting)

Azul (12241) | about 9 years ago | (#13402607)

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??? (4, Insightful)

wwwrench (464274) | about 9 years ago | (#13402727)

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??? (3, Insightful)

mpost4 (115369) | about 9 years ago | (#13402770)

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]

Re:Democratic??? (0)

loqi (754476) | about 9 years ago | (#13402940)

[satire]
I'm sorry, but what you've described sounds too close to communism for me to have a rational discussion with you. Please allow to me to cite a list of oppressive, totalitarian regimes that called themselves "communist" or "socialist". Remember the fact that communism can't possibly work; otherwise it would have.
[/satire]

do you know anything about corporations? (1)

dh003i (203189) | about 9 years ago | (#13403970)

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 shareholders. That's why shareholders invest their money in equity-issuances to begin with. They're the owners, and almost all corporate charters declare that the purpose of their existence is to maximize shareholder wealth (NPV) by engaging in their specific line of business.

This is a Soviet plot to destroy capitalism (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13402802)

The House Un-American Activities Committee should investigate them.

Has been tried in some communist countries (2, Interesting)

markov_chain (202465) | about 9 years ago | (#13402837)

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.

Re:Has been tried in some communist countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13404193)

The system was actually a brilliant move by a few top Communist party leaders to tone down the power struggle at the top of ex-YU highly hierarchical and non-democratic (dictatorship of the proletariat) system. On the short run it worked perfectly to diffuse the centrifugal tendencies at the top ranks and prolong an experiment in top down social engineering. However, in it's core it was run by Communist party officials directly or indirectly. Given that freedom of speech was non-existant it was impossible to reach working system. General corruption did not stop at the gates of such organizations on the contrary this system with it's lowering of the decision making level open the doors for corruption to spread even wider.

Looking in hindsight it is amazing that it actually made quite a few people fond of it. My guess is that it worked as well as it did because knowledge, history and political science were distorted to the limit. Ideology was king and there was only one ideology that could be practiced - the communist one. It's high points were the idealism (or self preservation?) towards ethnic and social equity in ex-YU and who's low points were complete disregard for freedom in the name of the first two. With the dissolution of the USSR the whole system finally fell on it's knees and took a swing in the other direction resulting 4 major conflicts (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo). In all fairness those cannot be attributed solely to the fallacy of the communist system or the backwardness of it's people but to strategic power plays in the region.

The lesson to be learned, one should pay really close attention at the status and politics within the Chinese military. But that's another topic altogether.

decentralized decision making works (4, Insightful)

albeit (668367) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:decentralized decision making works (1)

albeit (668367) | about 9 years ago | (#13403028)

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 politically, which tends to break down as things scale. And, again, because of distance from information.

Re:decentralized decision making works (1)

Max_W (812974) | about 9 years ago | (#13403734)

"..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.

Re:decentralized decision making works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13404884)

ha ha - u r 2 much dude

Only oil companies :-) (1)

nektra (886676) | about 9 years ago | (#13403048)

Being an oil company in last times give you a lot of freedom to play.

Why not go all the way? (3, Insightful)

br00tus (528477) | about 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why not go all the way? (2, Insightful)

albeit (668367) | about 9 years ago | (#13403137)

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.

Re:Why not go all the way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403727)

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.

That's great! Wonderful! Now people can set a business in motion...except, somehow, everyone seems to get a piece of the pie from this wonderful risk, except the very people who work and make the service or product that the business is predicated on.

They put real money at risk and are entitled to a return just as you are when you place your money in the bank.

Erm, ok, but after they earn their money back (i.e. break even on original investment), just how much in returns are they entitled to? Wait a moment, I'll answer that in the next paragraph...

I love that bit about the bank. Tell me, why are there so many fees that I have to pay the bank, and why are the fees always higher than any interest or returns that I would earn from the bank? Could it have something to do with the fact that a bank is turning a profit from all of its customers, and not just the investments and loans it makes? In other words, if the bank is going to pay me for my "risk", why is it that I pay the bank more than the amount they pay me for the "risk"? From a "profit" perspective, isn't that a loosing proposition? Why bother banking at all? Why not keep your money in a safe at home? Don't tell me it bolsters the economy - the millions of bank customers are also part of the economy, so if they are loosing money each month, then how can that help the economy? And yes, I reject the notion that people will deposit enough money to earn enough interest to offset the fees charged by banks; by that time, people have deposited enormous sums of money, more than the average person will have on-hand at any point in time, so obviously it is not "commonplace". Just how much money do you have to put in to offset that $25.00 monthly fee when you draw a meager 3% interest? Hint: it's nearly the size of most people's paychecks after taxes. (I'll save you the math, it's $833.33) That's just to break even, and to earn more, you have to pay much more. Frankly, it sounds like a crummy deal to me, when compared below. And I'm being nice here, I didn't factor in inflation of the currency due to the fact that we are fiat-based and have nothing to tie the dollar against (I'm speaking for residents of the U.S.)

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.

Somehow that doesn't work out in practice. What happens is the stockholders hold the stock indefiniately, and reap returns indefinately. In other words, long past the point of the business potentially collapsing, long past the point of break-even on their initial investment, and before the ink even drys, they are guaranteed to receive returns for as long as the business stays functional AND profitable. This also includes if the business has been profitable for decades. In other words, large established businesses continue to pay money to the stockholders by virtue of stock ownership, risk be damned...yes, new technology and business practices can present a risk to established businesses, but the reality is that few businesses of that size fail due to those factors. Instead, they keep rolling along, and suddenly that "risky venture" looks more and more like a gravy train, and less like a gamble of someone's money...

I'm tired of the damned "neoclassical liberal economic" theories being taken at face value without critical analysis. We've based whole civilizations upon this predicated belief that money somehow creates things and energy (contrary to the laws of physics), instead of things and energy creating money. Stop spewing this textbook garbage, start looking at what you're really doing with your money. Chances are, you're really being taken for a ride...

Re:Why not go all the way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403844)

That's great! Wonderful! Now people can set a business in motion...except, somehow, everyone seems to get a piece of the pie from this wonderful risk, except the very people who work and make the service or product that the business is predicated on.

They get a salary. Don't like it? Start your own business and get your own "gravy train". I'm serious, by the way. The fact that you can make so much money starting your own company is the market's way of saying that we need more entrepreneurs. If everyone saved up their money and ended up starting their own company, then there would be a ton of jobs, but few employees. Supply and demand dictates that employee's wages must go up. That would be the market's way of saying we need more employees. It's a self-balancing system.

Erm, ok, but after they earn their money back (i.e. break even on original investment), just how much in returns are they entitled to?

They're entitled to what's left over after they pay all their expenses (i.e. wages, rents, etc.). You know, if the employees ever feel like they're being exploited, they can just quit, band together, and form a competing business. The employer can't force anyone to work for him. But there are many people who would like to exploit the fact that the employer needs labor, and the employer would like to exploit the fact that people are willing to do labor for money. As in all trade, both people are better off. The gravy train continues because both employer and employee feel like it's the optimal setup; if they didn't feel that way, one party would break off from the other.

In other words, long past the point of the business potentially collapsing, long past the point of break-even on their initial investment, and before the ink even drys, they are guaranteed to receive returns for as long as the business stays functional AND profitable.

Of course, because as long as the business stays functional AND profitable, society is benefiting from the business. If I can build a business that society can benefit from for a 100 years, why should my return be the same as someone who builds a business that society only benefits from for 10 years?

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

Rimu (757028) | about 9 years ago | (#13404430)

it's not that simple not just anyone can start a business. especially in mature industries, large corporations maintain such high barriers to entry that is is impossible for new players to compete. in mature industries, large players then proceed to set their product's price at whatever the market will stand and whatever gets them the most profit, and then compete for 'market share'. they do not compete by lowering their prices (i.e. by giving society more benefit. nooo, that would lower profits), they do it by spending more on advertising. businesses do not exist to benefit society. they exist to make a profit.

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

br00tus (528477) | about 9 years ago | (#13403851)

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 about people using capital to create commodities they don't know if anyone wants to buy or can even afford to. Then you say because they take this completely unnecessary risk, they are entitled to the wealth others create. Your scenario only works if work-for-hire is not a possibility, when of course it is, and has been how things were always done up until the last few centuries.

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

servognome (738846) | about 9 years ago | (#13404311)

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 time and capital to have the ability to make a horseshoe. The tanner doesn't go to anybody and say "make me a horseshoe", he goes to the guy who took the risk and became a blacksmith.
The corporate system came about when the capital risks became so high, it was difficult for any single person to absorb. How many people have $1M to start up a small company? Now how many people have $10,000 to invest in a small company.

You can't treat something like a computer company that requires millions of dollars in investment as a true work-for-hire environment. It has to constantly be churning out product and trying to sell it, to cover the long term costs associated with the fixed investments (eg property taxes, electricity, upkeep, etc).

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

br00tus (528477) | about 9 years ago | (#13404582)

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. So you got weak pricing power....You've got globalization. You've got global capacity everywhere...There are plants all over China that just built 20 million things that are coming in to this or that, so pricing pressure is what we're facing. The reason why jobs are tough is not volume. The reason why jobs are tough is there's no profitability."

All flaws in the system - chronic overproduction, recessions, chronic unemployment (to where in the US, the economic term "full employment" actually means 5% or so are unemployed who want jobs and can't find them). Companies can't "break even" - they must profit, meaning if some of the wealth created by people working isn't going to say some heir who inherited a company, the job will cease to exist. Not to mention that the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage in the US is below what it was 30 years ago [bls.gov] . But that too is just another side effect.

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

servognome (738846) | about 9 years ago | (#13405127)

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 million dollar horseshoe factory will lose out more (millions vs thousands), at the personal level the individual investor in the factory will likely lose out less than the individual blacksmith (investment dollars vs entire livelihood).

What is the alternative to risk? You said it yourself it takes millions of dollars to start up a factory. If somebody wants 20,000 computers, it is extremely inefficient to build a factory that can only build 20,000 computers. The reason is once that order is gone what are you going to do? Also, we live in a world of competition. If you are waiting on an order to build a factory, somebody else who already has a factory can fill it before you have a chance to even break ground.
People on /. always take shots at marketing. But their job isn't just advertising, they are there to trying to understand the market needs. To ensure that factories are making products that people want to buy. If they fail you have factories over or under producing, if technical folks fail you have a broken product. In either case the company loses. The technical folks build it, the marketing folks sell it.

All flaws in the system - chronic overproduction, recessions, chronic unemployment (to where in the US, the economic term "full employment" actually means 5% or so are unemployed who want jobs and can't find them).

Wow, this must be the worst possible economic system, what is a better one? Every single economic system has flaws. You have limited resources, you can't make everything for everybody. All economics does is try to find the most efficient way to use and distribute limited resources.

Not to mention that the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage in the US is below what it was 30 years ago. But that too is just another side effect.

And our standard of living has increased. It doesn't matter what we make, it matters how we live.

The effects of this problem were alluded to by former GE CEO Jack Welch recently, "I think...you have a lot of capacity. So you got weak pricing power....You've got globalization. You've got global capacity everywhere...There are plants all over China that just built 20 million things that are coming in to this or that, so pricing pressure is what we're facing. The reason why jobs are tough is not volume. The reason why jobs are tough is there's no profitability

It's not just production in other countries, technology also has the same impact as globalization. Or do you not think jobs are lost when somebody creates a program that reduces the number of people needed to accomplish a task? How many bankers have been replaced by ATM machines, manufacturing workers by automation, statisticians and financial analysts by computer programs. Technology improves capacity without increasing jobs, do we abandon that too?

Re:Why not go all the way? (1)

mikem170 (698970) | about 9 years ago | (#13403983)

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 (1)

ActionAL (260721) | about 9 years ago | (#13403280)

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 in the jungle" which is get out of the division and experience other positions and responsibilities at other divisions.

very rarely can we ever -just- do our work, walking into the corporate world for me exposed me to a world of office politics and a slow bureaucratic mind numbing machine.

currently the people who get on top are the ones who are well spoken, have the best presentable image, but they are not the experts. so if they are not the experts why are they paid insanely magnified times the salary of a worker is actually the expert?

what does this guy above me do all day anyway?

Grass is always greener... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403588)

"what does this guy above me do all day anyway?"

Become one and find out.

Re:i would love to work this way (1)

servognome (738846) | about 9 years ago | (#13404555)

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 debating other groups for resources, and debating higher management and marketing on timelines.
Personally I've had both kinds of managers, and as much as I thought I would like the former, the workplace environment is better under the latter. Your managers responsibility is to get you what you need. If they know the nature of the job, all the better, but it isn't necessarily a requirement. What you want is for them to trust you, have enough intelligence to communicate your needs to others. Then you want to set them loose like a bulldog to get you those things. A key skill is to learn how to manage your manager.

very rarely can we ever -just- do our work, walking into the corporate world for me exposed me to a world of office politics and a slow bureaucratic mind numbing machine.

That's because we don't work in a vaccuum. There are people out of work who want your job, there are people in other divisions who want a raise, there are people who need your help to accomplish their job.

currently the people who get on top are the ones who are well spoken, have the best presentable image, but they are not the experts. so if they are not the experts why are they paid insanely magnified times the salary of a worker is actually the expert?

Because they have skills you and ambition many other people don't posess. If you are the expert, why don't you lead?

what does this guy above me do all day anyway?

Probably stuff you wouldn't want to do, all those annoying political things. Plus alot of difficult decision making. You can always try for the position to find out.

as a Schlumberger employee... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403494)

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 comparison.

traditional system is best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13403544)

here is how promotions work nowadays:

if you are really good at your job, you don't get promoted, because then the company loses a good asset and has to train another one.

if you don't really know what you are doing, you are probably bored with your job. therefore, you talk a lot to whoever is around, improving your social skills. the company promotes you because you have well-developed social skills, also because you are deadwood floating around, getting in people's way. if they promote you, they can hire somebody who knows what they are doing to do your previous work.

the current system, by keeping the good workers working, and moving the socially-developed workers into management, allowing them to hire better workers, creates an efficient company. why change the way it runs?

Real democracies wage real war (0, Flamebait)

joelsanda (619660) | about 9 years ago | (#13403567)

People...see it as a real democratic institution in what is otherwise an authoritarian institution, a business.

If these are like America's democracy can they declare war on another country because it might have a product they don't like, even if there's no evidence the product exists?

Knowledge Management vs. Corporate Governance (2, Insightful)

limptrizkit (648664) | about 9 years ago | (#13403574)

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... whose boss' "boss" were the shareholders of the company.

An egalitarian, colegial environment is usually what you see when ideas are the main currency of the organization. But once you start talking about cold, hard cash, accountability (e.g., who did the shareholders entrust their money with) becomes paramount. Particularly as the goals of the organization become larger, more formal command structures become necessary just to keep track of the sheer complexity of the business.

In the end, whenever you talk about getting together with other people to accomplish some sort of task--be it producing edible food on an organic farm, or designing and assembling a full automotive product line--someone needs to decide how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. You can take your pick when it comes to governance--the structure you need will depend on what you're trying to accomplish--but you'll always need to find some way of making decisions, setting direction, etc.

Now, if you want to talk about actual business decisions being made democratically, the best example is... drum roll, please... a democratic government. Want a good example of a product created by a democratic government? The Space Shuttle comes to mind...

In any event, it's easy to sit in a cubicle knee-deep in code, engineering drawings, etc, and wonder what your boss does all day. While you're sitting there, posting on Slashdot and contemplating the ways in which you might be able to avoid doing things you don't like doing, your boss is involved in deciding what kind of work you're actually going to be paid to do.

Scary idea (1)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | about 9 years ago | (#13403601)

'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.

stupid posturing... (1)

ComputerSherpa (813913) | about 9 years ago | (#13403627)

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.

Waiting for firsts (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 9 years ago | (#13403937)

So who is going to be the first who is fired via wiki consensus?

Re:Waiting for firsts (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 9 years ago | (#13404978)

Cowboy Neal of course!

Sounds like a Knowledge Management concept. (1)

luthor (166065) | about 9 years ago | (#13404012)

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.

Office politics by another name (2, Interesting)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 9 years ago | (#13404138)

"'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.

mod uP (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13404302)

Percent of the *BSD started work on work that you going to continue, And she ran But suffice it chronic abuse of crisco or lube. [mit.e?du] found anybody's guess ASSOcIATION OF DECLINED IN MARKET JOIN THE GNAA!! had become like

SLB has incredible retention (1)

deeny (10239) | about 9 years ago | (#13404359)

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

(I have to admit having envy over that concept)

Soviet Russia (1)

MacDelaney (910360) | about 9 years ago | (#13404504)

In Soviet Russia, you are The Boss! wait a moment...

yuo Fai=l _It?! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13404831)

you need to soucCeed

Re:yuo Fai=l _It?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13405703)

you need to suck seed!

This is not exactly a new idea, but (4, Interesting)

zero0w (572225) | about 9 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13405671)

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 communities of practice were of enormous assistance to help me further my knowledge. After a period of time, I became a leader of on the SIG's and found it to be good both for one's profile in the organisation and a way to meet other like minded folks (and exchange ideas).

The thing that makes it work is the organisational culture. SLB engineers are encouraged to be independent and show initiative, without necessarily gaining permission from HQ first. I think Henry and Claude have done a great job building this and hope it continues long after they retire.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>