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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dennis Bakke and the general management club: "We often feel that the purpose of business is to maximize shareholder value, and that work need not necessarily be that much fun.

"Well, Mr. Bakke boldly stated that business was never meant to maximize shareholder value. As shock and awe reverberated throughout Huntsman, one could hear a pin drop in the room full of 80 MBAs. He went on to say, 'Business was meant to serve the world, not conquer it,' as old AES rival Enron attempted to do, and that 'one of the most difficult things to do as a leader is to balance these competing priorities.'

"A central theme of Mr. Bakke's philosophy is that as a leader, the best way to implement a 'serve the world' mentality is to make work fun for people. How do you make work fun? As Mr. Bakke explained that people do not want to work for the money, investment bankers started to shift uncomfortably in their seats.

"On the contrary, insisted Mr. Bakke, people want to work to make a difference in their surroundings. Mr. Bakke then introduced his concept of 'Bakke Ball' which is the idea that people want to have the opportunity to take the last shot in a basketball game in order to win. Just as basketball players want to control the outcome of the game, employees need opportunities to influence decision making in companies.

"Now, this sounds like a rosy idea that we have all heard (or did we?) in Management of People at Work, but how would one implement this idea in a company? According to Mr. Bakke, the key is to create accountability for people (in basketball terms, this means keeping score). The key steps to creating 'joy at work' are allowing people to reason, to think, and to take action.

"The only way to accomplish this as a senior executive is to give your people chances to 'shoot the ball.' This is a real challenge for leaders as it requires them to suppress the desire to have control and to allow other people to have their own opportunities. The two essential traits for leaders in order to create 'joy at work' are humility and love—namely, caring for the human element and understanding that you do not have to make all the decisions."

Bakke's Top Ten
  1. When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.
  2. The purpose of business is not to maximize profits for shareholders but to steward our resources to serve the world in an economically sustainable way.
  3. Attempt to create the most fun workplace in the history of the world.
  4. Eliminate management, organization charts, job descriptions, and hourly wages.
  5. Fairness means treating everybody differently.
  6. Principles and values must guide all decisions.
  7. Put other stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, etc.) equal to or above yourself.
  8. Everyone must get advice before making a decision. If you don't seek advice, "you're fired."
  9. A "good" decision should make all the stakeholders unhappy because no individual or group got all they wanted.
  10. Lead with passion, humility, and love.

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