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Speed Review: The Why of Work

Speed Review: The Why of Work

Speed Review: The Why of Work

How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win

by Dave Ulrich & Wendy Ulrich

According to studies, we all work for the same thing — and it's not just money. It's meaning. Renowned management expert Dave Ulrich and psychologist Wendy Ulrich talked to thousands of people — from rank-and-file workers to clients and customers to top-level executives — and synthesized major disciplines to identify the "why" behind our most successful experiences.


Reshaping Attitudes About the Working World

In many of today’s organizations, job insecurity has replaced job security, economic troubles abound and new technologies help to create longer workdays. Why do we do it? We are working harder, but how can we get more from the work we do while also creating more enjoyable time away from work?

Dr. Dave Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and Dr. Wendy Ulrich, a practicing psychologist, attempt to answer this question. Together, this husband-and-wife team of inquisitive experts has been pondering — and finding solutions to — some of the most important problems people face today while doing their daily work.

By combining Dave’s vast knowledge of organizations and Wendy’s professional insights into how people are impacted by their companies, The Why of Work offers many valuable lessons leaders can use to create strategies and processes in their work that can help them become happier and more successful.

This comprehensive book provides tailored ideas, tools and checklists to coax leaders to go beyond direction and structure to embrace the importance of communicating the meaning of work and its implications for attaining financial and organizational goals. And the Ulrichs point out, leaders at all levels can help make meaning happen.

Creating the ‘Abundant’ Organization

The co-authors aim to help leaders create "abundant" organizations. This abundance includes the vital ingredients of meaning, purpose, hope and pleasure. When we find this abundance for our organizations and ourselves, the authors write, we empower our people while also creating value for our customers and investors. We also create more hope for those in our communities.

Abundance is about making meaning, even in the worst of times. When we have created an abundant organization, people are combining and coordinating their aspirations and their actions to make more meaning for everyone.

The authors have organized their book around seven specific questions that move people and organizations toward a place where they can enjoy more abundance and success. These questions and their accompanying principles get to the heart of what it takes to build the abundance that catapults leaders over their daily obstacles, through threatening crises and into more satisfying work.

The first of the authors’ questions digs into the sense of identity that serves as an important starting point for moving toward a greater sense of abundance: What am I known for? Which job, career or life choice is going to build on my strengths? When we know who we are and what we can do well, we are in a better position to create meaning, grow, learn and develop the resilience to persevere.

Borrowing ideas from the field of positive psychology, the authors explain that when we define our own strengths and use them, we are better able to find more meaning and satisfaction in our lives. When we build on strengths that strengthen others, the Ulrichs write, we deepen the meaning we find from our strengths.

Where Am I Going?

The second question the authors ask is "Where am I going?" With this simple question, readers are driven toward finding the valuable motivation they need to create organizations with more purpose. This question can also help people find the personal motivation they need to match their ambitions with their organization’s goals.

The principle that accompanies this question states that abundant organizations recognize that they must have purposes that focus on and sustain both financial responsibility and social responsibility. According to the Ulrichs, these purposes must also align the motivation of individuals inside and outside the organization.

Other questions posed by The Why of Work recognize the importance of relationships, teamwork, effective work cultures, personal contributions, growth, learning, resilience, civility and happiness. By offering the questions and principles that push us toward finding more meaning in our personal and professional lives, the Ulrichs help us to develop greater commitment, improve the productivity of those around us, keep more of those people working with us, and even improve the mental and physical health of those people.

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