Lately, I have been feeling like it would be excellent to work for an organization that is both highly competent and structured to help people reach their potential: somewhere where management was good at identifying what each person was capable of doing, putting them to it, and then coordinating those efforts into the achievement of important outcomes. While I certainly admire people who have the self-direction necessary to make the most of their talents and skills, I don’t think I am really ready to do that myself. I think that was indicated by the relative weakness of my M.Phil thesis, which was the least successful part of my time in Oxford. Indeed, the largely undirected character of doctoral programs is one of the things that makes me most hesitant about undertaking one.
Most of my non-career jobs have been at places that generally struck me as non-competent. They muddled through and achieved success in their basic goals, but they didn’t do notable things or make the best use of the resources they had available. A few didn’t even meet that bar, and were clearly on track to eventually fail. In academic institutions and career-type jobs, I have certainly seen a lot more competence (though there are patches of incompetence everywhere). What exists less there is direction, and a willingness to try and cater tasks and an environment to what each person can do.
Perhaps there aren’t any places that strike the balance I am looking for, where each person is placed within the portion of the spectrum between direction and independence, and where the purposes being served are important and effectively met. Maybe it is just too thought- and labour-intensive to set things up in a way that makes the most of people. Alternatively, perhaps managers don’t generally have the incentive to do so. Also, there are certainly situations in which well-managed groups of people simply aren’t placed to achieve things that would be personally rewarding to those inside them – perhaps because the group is embedded in a larger organization with clashing goals.
All that said, it does seem sensible to try and seek out such a place, especially at a time in my life when I remain free of major financial or interpersonal obligations.