Thursday, June 9, 2011

Organizational and Motivational Factors

In this article I explore assumptions about the relationship between business and government organizations, our national economy, and different approaches for helping black Americans. What is a society other than a large, complex organization created by a people for their own betterment? This article begins a series discussing different approaches designed to achieve different conclusions for black Americans.

In a previous article I quoted Dr. Watkins who wrote the following in “Why Black Men Continue to Suffer, and Why It Must End Now” that was published in Your Black World on June 1, 2011. “… the state of black male existence and employment is at a 40-year low. But this 40-year low is preceded by a 400-year old problem. If we continue to address the problem in the same ways we have in the past, we will continue to reach the same conclusions and find the same faulty solutions. It’s time for a new day in black male America and that day must come right now.”

I agree with his words but think the issue should be expanded to include both black males and black females. Black Americans represent one of our greatest challenges that must be overcome. As everyone knows, these challenges come from the fact that black people were used as a source of legally-enforced cheap labor in the American economy from 1619 up until the mid-1950’s. If you are in doubt about this last date, see A quote from this website reads, “Across the South, a new variety of slavery emerged after the Civil War. Laws were rewritten to criminalize African-American life. The judicial system was retooled to provide cheap forced labor to mines, farms, timber camps, turpentine makers, railroad builders and entrepreneurs large and small. Tens of thousands of men, the vast majority of them black, found themselves pulled back into slavery.”

In previous articles I wrote about the on-going pattern of dramatic swings in our economy that help a few (Wall Streeters and bankers) and do not help the many in the long run. This is particularly true of black Americans who have been at the bottom of the economic ladder for 400 years. As Dr. Watkins wrote, to rectify this situation we have applied the same faulty solutions that have not resulted in desired conclusions. The bottom line is that none of what has been done has successfully addressed the real issues regarding black American’s employment, health, wealth, and retirement.

As an introduction to this series, this article discusses organizations and their relationship with our national economy. Before I retired I worked as a business/organizational consultant for corporations, government agencies, and non-profits. In virtually all cases, each organization I was asked to help was experiencing challenges related to employee/organizational productivity and motivation. Some of them were in such bad shape I represented their last-ditch effort to not close their doors and go bankrupt. My job was to determine why each organization was experiencing challenges and help them see how to overcome them. (Without pulling a muscle in my old shoulder while patting myself on the back, I can say I was quite good at doing this.) And it is my firm belief that the approaches I used with these organizations can be applied to our national economy. From my point of view the failed approaches attempted to help black Americans did not take into account knowledge that today is applied to business and governmental organizational improvement.

To develop different ideas for helping black Americans, as Dr. Watkins says we should, we have to apply different knowledge and develop different approaches. From my experience, the failed approaches were designed like a circuit board that didn’t have its power cord plugged in. Every improvement program I have studied and observed involved acquiring money, establishing goals, hiring staff, developing work processes and activities, advertising availability, and opening the doors. Not one program was established taking into account the electricity that makes human society successfully function – human motivation. Not one included group-process activities designed to foster the involvement and participation of the people the program was supposed to help. Not one included any determination of what the people the program was supposed to help would have to do themselves to insure program success. How can any human society successfully function without taking into account human motivational factors?

There will be more about this in future articles.

NOTE: If you are interested in knowing more about organizations and motivation read about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and his 1954 book Motivation and Personality (See's_hierarchy_of_needs), Frederick Herzberg’s motivational approaches and his book Work and the Nature of Man (See and, and J.R. Hackman’s and G.R. Oldham’s job satisfaction approaches and their book Organizational Behavior and Human Performance in a chapter titled Motivation through the Design of Work (See These were my primary references for my doctoral dissertation at the University of Southern California.

Joseph L. Bass, Ed.D. is a retired business/organizational consultant, seeking to improve society using his decades of experience enhancing corporations and government agencies. What is a society other than a large, complex organization created by a people for their own betterment? He is executive director of the non-profit ABetterSociety.Info, Inc.

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