Select Page

It’s an itch you must… and we mean MUST… scratch!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

A little while back we took a ramble through the business literature and confirmed a simple fact: Leadership is the most written about subject in business books.

In several other posts, we have covered leadership

[we too just can’t help throwing words at the subject]

mostly to confirm that leaders rarely demonstrate it and, more likely than not, most corporations succeed at being average in spite of, and despite, leadership.

And, of course, that our consulting brethren can enjoy endless summer days on their private islands thanks to the gigs that can emerge from the void.

[Tahiti anyone?]

This last week, we were enjoying ourselves discussing the ins and outs of corporate culturedom, kicking around some classic paradoxes:

  • How to make the small big (think growth) by making the big small (think divestiture)
  • How to free energy (think unleashing) while reducing spend (think constriction)
  • How to encourage entrepreneurialism (think passion) while still achieving business objectives (think alignment)

Amidst the banter – and opportunity scanning – we started discussing volunteers in organizations. Early adopters, bleeding edge, actively whatever

[engaged, aligned, committed, pick-a-state…]

call them what you may – they just can’t help holding up their hands and saying “I’ll have a go”. And that’s wonderful. After all, they are the people who actually deliver the goods day-in-day-out, saving corporate butt from getting corporate kicked by corporate hob-nail boots. Oh yes, the few far outweigh the many – in outcomes if not in overall numbers. But there is a problem.

When volunteerism becomes volunteerialism

  • Volunteerism = driven people stepping up to get things done
  • Volunteerialism = driven people doing whatever they feel like doing

Volunteerialism. Not such a bad thing as described, eh? Well, we neglected to mention one, little aspect that makes it completely different. By definition…

[and we did invent the word this last Friday, so it’s our definition to play with]

Volunteerialism is driven people doing whatever they feel like doing, so long as it is completely mis-aligned to corporate strategy. Volunteerialists practice entrepreneurial behaviors in pursuit of their own self-interest – even within major corporations. Seldom seen pursuing an aligned goal, these freaky Fridays burn resources (human, $$$, information) building shadow organizations, complex processes, self-defined job descriptions, audit functions and all manner of other non-aligned bureaucracy, simply because no-one tells them to stop.

And the master-stroke of the volunteerialist? To make themselves indispensable. Once the process is enshrined, once the budget is carved out, it’s near-impossible to root out the volunteerialist solution because… Anyone?



Because it looks like the work of a volunteer/entrepreneur – and heaven’s forbid that we might actually stamp on someone’s initiative… That wouldn’t be right, would it? It couldn’t be. Surely?

And so the volunteerialist carves out a sweet career doing whatever they want and never being held accountable for the outcomes of their work because they’re “just sooooo inventive and driven – we need more people like him/her/it!”

A company full of volunteerialists will fail.

You will succeed if you:

  • Share your purpose.
  • Establish a vision.
  • Set your mission.
  • Choose your strategies.
  • Engage your volunteers.
  • Align the rest of the organization.
  • Then get out of the way.

Oh, and deal with anyone who isn’t part of the above. Even if they’re really ‘spunky’. Because they’re likely volunteerialists. And they’re sapping the life out of your organization through the very drive you must seek to emulate and eliminate at the same time.

[Did we mention that the world is full of paradox?]

Because the last thing your corporation needs is volunteerial disease.

Hasta maƱana,