Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-performance Companies, by Paul J. Zak ISBN 9780814437667
Five out of five stars
It is a point of contention in the modern business world whether it is better to have a strict hierarchical management structure with firm adherence to a rigid set of rules that keep workers in their place or to severely limit the command nature of the hierarchy, allowing workers to make their own decisions. The first is a low trust environment and the second a high trust one. Furthermore, in the strictly structured organization, workers are expected to work long hours, limit their vacation time and closely follow directions. In the second, worker fatigue and exhaustion is understood and workers are encouraged to simply drop everything from time to time in order to recharge.
This book takes a position in favor of the second organizational structure and the arguments are made in two ways. Paul Zak is a neuroscientist and much of his work has been research into the levels of specific neurochemicals in the blood. He puts forward the arguments that when a worker is trusted to do the work and make their own decisions, the levels of key neurochemicals changes in the direction that improves performance. When workers are kept rigidly confined, the levels go in the wrong direction.
The second argument is based on case studies of companies that have adopted unusual organizational tactics, even to the point of paying poor hires to leave the company. Zak cites a statistic that I have read in several other publications, that companies that trust their employees and give them power over their work tend to outperform those that don’t.
In the modern world where there is a great deal of electronic decision support and business is global and moving at a rapid rate, empowering employees that are highly skilled to make the necessary moves is essential. There has always been a gap between the average and high achievers and there is a lot of evidence to indicate that the difference is growing.
While some will find what they consider to be heresies in this book, the objection to the gap in salaries between the workers and the CEO and questioning the true role of a corporation in the modern world, it is an important book for all decision makers. Every successful company has superstars and people are not interchangeable. Therefore, the point of this book about allowing people to develop and use their skills is one that all should consider.