The origin of the term Responsibility is in the Latin word “respondere”, which not only means “answer something”, but also “account for your own actions” and “bear the consequences”.
Responsibility is a central concept in our life, but we are not always aware of it. When we go to a hospital, to a bank or to a restaurant, we rely on the fact that each person is responsible and therefore is aware of the consequences of his/her actions. The same principle is valid in the companies too: in order to do a good job, we depend on the sense of responsibility of other people: collaborators, managers, executives and suppliers. Obviously, we are not responsible for all the events taking place: for instance, we are not responsible for the things which do not depend on us. On the contrary, we are responsible for the actions whose result or evolution depends to a large extend on our actions and decisions. We are non-responsible for events happening outside our sphere of influence.
To talk about the professional responsibility in a proper way, two conditions are needed:
- To have a certain level of autonomy and discretion on the choices to make;
- To have information in order to take decisions.
The term “shared and participatory management” does not mean “relieve responsibilities on others”, on the contrary it means to be aware that to reach ambitious purposes we need a common project upon which people, although with different ages, experiences and interests, decide to work on and invest. Responsibility, and particularly the shared and participatory management, needs something that goes beyond what is established by law or by an agreement. Responsibility needs a common motivation and passion. In sum, it means going from Me (individual dimension) to Us (common dimension). For example, in the sport field a good player must accept to leave room to a mate when he/she is in better shape to throw the ball.
The term “responsibility” implies the presence of another aspect: the idea of future. Responsibility is strictly correlated to the idea of building an expected and desired future, worth bearing the risk and sometimes accepting some sacrifice for it. Therefore, the culture of responsibility does not accept excuses when the expected results are not achieved.
Create participative shared and participatory management’ organisation is a complex task and the organizations often need a deep and extensive renewal. When the change is deep, the change process does not occur in an immediate way. Change needs time. It is always difficult to change behaviours and mentalities rooted in people’s and organisations’ culture, above all when in the past they have had success.
As in all the complex paths, “how” the change will be executed hashas the same importance of what will be changed. If I decide to go on a trip in the United States, from New York to San Francisco, the choice of the means of transport (by plane, bus or car) will influence the experience that I will have at the end of my journey. If I decide to take the bus and make some stops I will arrive in San Francisco more tired, but with a lot of foods for thought about life in the United States after having knowing so many people.
The change must happen with modalities and approaches consistent with the aim that one wants to obtain. Therefore, the shared and participatory management develops when the entire process, from the design to the implementation, is executed in a consistent way with its principles. It is a change with two features:
- Systemic approach: the company is a system constituted by a set of elements which interact with each other. Therefore, in order to make an effective change, it is not sufficient to change the organizational structures, but it is also necessary to modify, for example, the concrete organizations’ way of working, who makes decisions, how decisions are made, who is awarded, which abilities and knowledge must have the new employees…
- Participative approach: in the traditional organizations the change happens through a top down approach. For this reason, the change is thought, led and implemented by the top management. In the shared and participatory management’ organizations the change, instead, is designed and implemented with the contribution and involvement of people who will work in the new organizational context. In the former, employees have to apply the new rules in a passive way; in the latter, people enhance their competences and abilities to solve problems, to improve business processes and work organisation.
In many companies the process of change is supported by the social parts and particularly by the trade unions. For example, in Germany given the state law from 1976, in the national and international companies all the industrial sectors with more than 2000 operators, workers can elect some representatives of the supervisory boards who define the strategies of the companies, nominates the managers and control their work without workers are obliged to participate to the business capital and corporate profits.
At the bottom of the systemic and participative approach there is a shared vision of the company’s future. The vison represents the company’s realistic, credible, attractive future upon which all the employees converge their competences, motivations and aspirations.
In this way the company becomes a community of people gathered around the realization of a new idea. Therefore, a spirit of collaboration is developed:
- The change is not imposed from the top but, on the contrary, people want to realize it and take part in its realization since it is an opportunity of individual and team growth.
- A positive mind arises in order to face innovation and competitors’ challenges.
- The improvements of the relationship between management and employees, even facilitates the overcoming of critical or difficult phases. In these cases, the whole staff gathers around the company in order to protect the common interests.