Coming out: can you bring value to an organisation after having left it?

I was 22 when I got my first job with a large multinational company, freshly baked out of the academic oven. What a sense of pride and relief for myself, and my parents, to get a confirmation that I could… fit in.

For 14 years, I created value for my organisation, within the frameworks they had designed for “us” to contribute. Depending on the Business Units and the geographies, these frameworks were more or less enabling or debilitating, but I would always get enough value for myself (financial, intellectual, social, etc.) to choose to remain part of the company.

In those 14 years, I have acquired a unique knowledge of this organisation; its people, its products, its clients, its cultural patterns, etc. Having worked in or with most parts of the structure and most parts of the world, I became a true connector in addition to a descent professional in my field of expertise.

The current employer / employee model is binary. You are either IN or you are OUT, and there is no in-between.

Being IN requires an absolute compliance to a vision, a culture and an operational framework. Once an organisation decides to bring someone in, the formatting mechanisms – called on-boarding process to soften the concept – come into action. As an outcome of this process, you know how much of your potential you are expected to unleash and how much is preferable to keep for yourself. Whether this is an 80/20, 50/50 or 20/80 balance is usually not a consideration for the employer and you can stay in the organisation for as long as you give it exactly what it thinks it need, even if that represents 10% of what you’re capable of.

Getting out of an organisation is a very formal process. When you leave the force, you hand in your badge and your gun – your pass and your laptop in that matter – and you turn your back and walk away.  When you are OUT, you simply do not exist in the corporate equation, no matter wether you are an absolute stranger or you have spent 14 years in the organisation, which makes you more knowledgeable about it than most people that are still “in”.

A few months ago, I made the decision to put an end to my contract and move on. I was not seizing an opportunity. I had not developed resentment, frustrations or anger against them. I had just reached the certainty that I could better unleash my potential and have more fun in a different context, within a different patch.

I still had a lot of respect for my team and some of my peers and I was convinced that I could be at least as valuable to my employer, if not more, from the outside of the organisation than from the inside. I genuinely offered to co-design a model where my contribution to the organisation would take different forms than the traditional “pay for my time” model. It would have been a way for me to help nurture the venture I had created and deeply cared about while minimising the unexpected disruption for the organisation.

Sadly, they declined the offer.

What struck me in this experience was the lack of maturity of the organisation. Their approach to the situation was driven by a primal sense of betrayal. The need to re-create stability as soon as possible within the current system completely hindered their ability to consider an evolution of the system itself to turn a challenge into an opportunity. When a key person is leaving, he or she needs to be replaced. Period!

That inability for organisation to foresee alternative models to employment prevents them from accessing a tremendous amount of talent at their doorstep.

Of course, most companies leverage consultants and temp staff every once in a while but the practice remains limited in scope and in time. The systems and processes are just not designed to embrace other models, but more sadly, the culture and mindsets are hardly prepared to even consider alternatives.

  • What would it mean for an organisation to actively leverage the potential of its employees not only during the time they spend on the payroll but also after, and why not, before?
  • How would we approach resource management if organisations weren’t exclusively inward focused but were broadening their models based on the value drivers of their ecosystem?
  • What if one could be both IN, on certain projects, at certain stages of his / her life, and OUT, to pursue other aspirations elsewhere and multiply activities and perspectives?

These questions are relevant today and hold in themselves a huge potential value for both organisations and individuals. But in the world where the number of freelancers is increasing exponentially and where the corporate career becomes less and less appealing to graduates, how long will it take before inventing those models become vital?

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6 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Networks, Nodes, Patches

6 responses to “Coming out: can you bring value to an organisation after having left it?

  1. I think what you’re describing is how a lot of small consulting firms work and stay alive. When I was a solo contractor I had symbiotic relationships with a few other contracting individuals or groups. We came together when it made sense and not when it didn’t. We actively worked to support each other with the idea that the strength of the group as a whole was part of our individual strengths. The trick was in finding complimentary skills and people with a similar work ethic. I found it worked extremely well to have nurtured this environment, and certainly our clients benefited greatly from the arrangement.

  2. Isn’t the question the following: what are the conditions for a value web model to be implemented and efficient ?

    On what SLA should it be based depending on the fields of expertise ? If any interaction has a beginning, does it have an other end than someone’s death ? Is there a minimum/maximum size for the “community” ? Do actual laws and regulations make it possible for such models to emerge ? Is it compliant with every culture or civilization on earth ?

    Big is powerful, small is beautiful, organic is certainly meaningful, but what are the seeds and conditions to grow organic ?

    • Olivier, the questions you raise are central to my current thinking.
      I can’t help but think that the experience I just went through is somewhat absurd for the value it wasted or the opportunity it didn’t seize.
      I am currently exploring the systemic changes that would foster the emergence of value based models as a default approach to resources in large organisations. I’ll write a post on it when my thinking is more mature.

      • It’s not absurd, as it happened… 😉 That only means the system, the organisation, the pattern in which that happened has rules that aren’t oriented towards “value” creation as you define it, or not only. But in a way it created security, it protected identity of the structure. That’s also value… from the structure point of view. It could mean this structure has highest priorities for self protection than for client oriented value creation.

        “Structure wins”, or with other words, the structure strongly determines the moves, so could be right to look at systemic changes.

        Value webs exist in the nature. Some ecosystems and brain are some. But they don’t include the F***ing human factor. I’m not sure the perfect value web model isn’t an utopie, just like perfect communism or perfect liberalism.

        In the ZEN philosophy, it’s more important to find it’s place than to get to the highest place possible. But still, Japanese groups balance that with the strongest hierarchy and group identity allegiance…

        At the beginning of Virgin, Branson said he would build a major group based on “Little is beautiful”, in order to develop and maintain agility, and capability to gather the best team for each mission, team which would only exist as long as the mission exists. He couldn’t push the model that far.

        My intuition is that to build a value web, you need individual independence. To have independent people, you need them to be reinsured. To get reinsurance you need structure… or values.

        So I would guess that by building and investing in values first, you then can make a first step towards value webs.

  3. Pingback: I work for IBM, but what value do I bring to my previous employer, Capgemini? | Robert Fransgaard

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