Rants and Blogs

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are You Ready for Gen X Leaders and Gen Y Workers?

Is your company being led with an agile mindset or by a narcissistic idealist?  We have all heard the phrases "That's how we've always done it" or "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."  Sadly, it’s my belief that these two simple phrases are setting corporations on a track for disaster.  We live in a time where Baby Boomers are at the top, but on their way out, Gen X is trying to take over, and Gen Y (millennials) wants nothing to do with it.  Is your company agile enough to pass the reigns?

Let me first set the bias by stating that I am Generation X. For lack of a better term I will say that I am near the XY Cusp.  When I think about those two statements within a corporation I relate them to the boomers or BoomerX cusp.  Coming right out of wars they joined the workforce and attempted to move up the corporate ladder, and many have done just that.  They have this idea that if you just work long and hard the results will be positive.  That sounds great and I am sure that it once was, but with the rate of technology today you will fall behind if you are working long at anything.  Other common attributes from this generation include continual promotion from within and keeping harmony amongst the employees.  Agility is often foreign to this generation which leaves us with 20 year old equipment punching out the same pieces of metal.  Again, each of these values or beliefs worked great and long standing companies are here today because of them, but these practices are failing today.

Now we are on to Gen X; the degenerates.  Our entrepreneurial, agile, and creative ways are a wrench in the system that worked so well for the generation before us.  We are often referred to as demanding and said to have issues with authority.  In defense to this, I would agree that we are demanding and say that it is questioning the status quo of those that deem themselves entitled for their twenty years of hard static work.  We often move around from one company to the next, but struggle with always wanting to improve the system.

By the 80’s and 90’s Gen Xers were well into the work force and technology changed drastically.  This was our opening to move and make something of ourselves.  Those simple phrases that we started with leave a lot of businesses headed down the wrong track while others continually adapt.  This also opened the door leading to our entrepreneurial ventures.

Today’s workplace sadly is often more of a battle ground than a collaborative pool of tried and true methods that only the experience of the boomer generation can provide and the agile practices and rapid development of technology that Gen Xers bring to the table.

Gen Y seems to want nothing to do with this battle or a cubicle.  They think less about a dead-set 20yr retirement with one company than even the generation before.  This generation will be very interesting to say the least.  They are highly intelligent being that they do not know what it is like to not have a computer in their home or two cell phones in their pocket, yet they are spoiled in a sense and will drop work for play without a second thought.

I am in no way saying that any one generation is wrong in the way they worked.  The fact is that we are a product of our environment.  The key to that is “the way they worked”, past tense.  We need to change and adapt to the methods of the rising generation.

Companies with a long history that are still being run with these Baby Boomer values need to adapt quickly.  They must give way to the next generation’s values before they experience the shock of immediate change when that generation retires.  The loyalty is more apparent if discussing marriage.  Baby Boomers got married and are still married, Gen Xers are often on their 3rd marriage, and the millennials want nothing to do with it.

The way we do this is to give way to the ideas of agile practices.  Build an environment that allows for iterative delivery/development.  The Gen Xers are all over this idea and it simply is not being welcomed by the traditional leadership in today’s corporations.  Allowing these practices into your business will improve the way that you work, appeal to Gen Y, and greatly improve time to market.  More importantly, now that you are agile, you eliminate the risk of losing that “tribal knowledge” that your business thrives on today by eliminating the need for it.

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