Richard Branson offers staff autonomy over vacation times and duration. Simples?

October 3, 2014


Richard Branson has announced a revolutionary self-managed policy for his personal staff. At first sight it seems a step towards the idealistic dream of worker autonomy and self-managed work groups. So let’s look a little more closely at the emerging story

This week [september 24th, 2014], Richard Branson was reported as announcing a new policy for his 170 personal staff. They are to have full rights to setting vacations [‘holidays’ or ‘leave periods’ in British vernacular].

Empowerment

‘Empowerment’ of workers has been a theme in OB courses and popular leadership writing for a few decades. This seems to be a further example, with the added weight provided by the authority of Richard Branson.

The basic principle is easy to grasp. The notion has libertarian and emancipatory aspects to it. So what’s not to like about it? And why have such initiatives been the target of Critical Theorists who have tended to dismiss it as a managerial fad?

Behind the headlines

Branson hopes the plan will be rolled out to subsidiary divisions. He has been reported as being influenced by his daughter who told him of a similar scheme at Netflix. The back story begins to take shape.

As one admiring report put it, Billionaire Richard Branson may be the coolest boss ever.

Two ‘maps’ of the story

One perspective is to interpret the story as an example of subtle exercise of power masquerading as enlightened leadership. The scheme is at present on offer to the 170 personal staff of Richard Branson. In his own words, the workers have obligations to act in the corporate interest so as not to damage the company or theirs own careers. The benevolence conceals the power structure on organizational life. The majority of employees are not directly influenced.

Another perspective is to consider Branson to be an authentic leader whose moral compass is towards a happy and autonomous work force. He avoids the dilemma of enforcing democracy by inviting change rather ordering it. He shares a generally non-coercive style with some of the most successful modern entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who have built creative organizations

Oh, and one more thing …

The story breaks as the engaging fun-loving Branson is launching his new book. The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership.

Simples?


Face to face in Moscow: Facebook’s founder meets Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

October 2, 2012

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to discuss intellectual property issues.

Zuckerberg was beginning his quest for new global markets, as the leader of the newly floated Facebook organization [May 2012]

The Voice of Russia reported:

On Monday [1st October 2012] Dmitry Medvedev and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had an informal meeting at the Prime Minister`s residence outside Moscow.

Since Mr Medvedev has his personal video blog, not to mention accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal, his meeting with Zuckerberg, whose social networking site already has over 995 million users, has become a hot topic for the media.

Mr Medvedev was reported as saying

“The social networking sites have become extremely popular worldwide. And Facebook`s contribution to this is obvious. If I am not mistaken, some 10 million Russians are on Facebook. Of course, it is not that much compared to the US, where there are about 30 million Facebook users. Still, these figures are impressive. We also have our national social networking sites such as Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and VKontakte (Staying in touch). Besides, everybody is using Twitter. This is a kind of a different reality. And you personally have contributed to this”

Mr. Medvedev and Mr Zuckerberg discussed copyright protection on the web.

“As a lawyer myself I am very interested in this issue. I used to do research on it in the past. I believe that if an object of intellectual property is not listed on the web as requiring special protection it could be used freely” Mr. Medvedev said.

Friends or not?

When the meeting was over, Mark Zuckerberg presented Dmitry Medvedev with a T-shirt printed with the address of Medvedev`s Facebook page. The Voice of Russia report did not say whether Dmitry and Mark had friended each other, and if so, when.

The IP challenge

The conversation ever-so-politely introduced the challenges of intellectual property rights facing Facebook and other Western organizations as they seek to work globally.

The bonds that tie

It occurred to me that for all the differences in culture, America and Russia have been parts of the world which have seen the rise of self-made entrepreneurs cum billionaires. In that sense Zuckerman has a head start over the more traditional Fortune 100 CEOs in doing business there.

Acknowledgement

Image from biz Russia. IP rights as indicated by Mr. Medvedev