1999 Mayberry Symposium

Danny Cooper and Stephen Flatt*

On October 26, 1999, a Mayberry Symposium, titled “Organizations and Careers in the 21st Century: What are the Keys to Success”, was held in the Johnson Hall auditorium. The panel of speakers consisted of five Mayberry Advisory Board members (Jack Swaim, Marie Williams, Dave Jones, Ken Best and Jessee Johnston, Jr.) while Dr. Reimann served as the moderator. Former Mayberry Graduate Assistants, Brian Bowman and Cass Larson, led the questioning that followed the panel members’ opening remarks. The symposium was attended by a large number of students and faculty. The purpose of the symposium was for the panel members to share their views on issues students will be facing during their careers.

Topics discussed included the following: workforce global business, necessary workplace skills, career advice, lifelong learning, career goals, and the impact of the Internet. The following are quotes that capture some of the views expressed on key issues.

  • When Milliken looks for future employees, we look for the capacity to learn, a positive attitude, those that strive for personal growth, integrity, and the ability to balance work and personal life (Johnston).
  • The Internet is redefining organizations. It is the most powerful factor in the global economy. It is finally going to make the shift from the industrial age to the information age (Best).
  • Dave Jones outlined 5 pieces of advice that he gives all new hires:
    • realize that learning and development never stops,
    • take responsibility for your own career,
    • think globally,
    • take assignments in multiple locations (domestically and globally), and
    • make a difference in the organization.
  • The only way organizations and individuals can be adaptive is to commit to lifelong learning (Swaim).
  • You’ve got to be able to be collaborative and to build upon the strengths and skills of both yourself and others (Williams).

Additionally, several of the panel members responded to the following questions posed by Allen Shannon, a TTU undergraduate, through e-mail:

Question

How does the idea of "a company of one" not come in conflict with today's firms' desires to promote teamwork? If a firm is basically a collection of "companies of one," how do employees’ egos, self-interests and the like not hinder progress? I understand the necessity to take final responsibility for my career development, but where does company loyalty come in? Does it have a legitimate place in the 21st Century? Is it wrong, shortsighted or even naive to strive to become an integral part of a fluid, seamless team, completely and wholly dedicated to serving the customer, whether it is an internal or external one? Am I an anachronism if I put team/firm needs above my own?

Answers

(Swaim)
There is a hierarchy of values that shape loyalty. At the top of the hierarchy ladder is the personal values rung, shaped by your own construct of personal integrity. Your personal values determine how you work out career alignment with company attitudes toward teamwork.

Company values are on a lower rung than personal values. Company values hopefully reflect alignment with needs of stakeholders, starting with customers. The need for teamwork flows from the company's approach to integrating and aligning processes to address needs of stakeholders, where the stakeholders include customers and employees (as well as others).

Over the long run, you optimize your career. You hope for alignment between personal goals and company needs, but your career must trump company loyalty over the long run. You never subordinate personal integrity to company needs.

(Best)
You may recall that I mentioned the paradox of being a company of one in the midst of everyone moving to a team environment. I think the challenge is to find ways to ensure that you get the proper return on your contribution to the team. Your point is well taken that those who sacrifice for team achievement are to some degree putting the needs of the team (and organization) ahead of their own needs. If the organization has not converted the infrastructure to recognize and reward this team oriented behavior, then it is time to either move to behaviors that are recognized and rewarded or move to some other employer. The key is to get your return on contribution by making the team successful.

(Jones)
First of all, companies will still contain a high percentage of dedicated employees who plan to be with the company a long time. These employees will form the base of the company. In the future, companies will consist of a many employees possessing unique skills that are needed for certain projects, but not needed all the time. These will be people that like specialization and enjoy experiencing new environments. They will still be dedicated to their employer, but in a different way than we traditionally think about dedicated employees. Using people like this is a highly effective way to get things done without adding unnecessary costs. Compensation and Benefit systems will have to be changed to accept this new type of employee. For example, retirement programs will have to be portable in order to travel with the employee. Today's businesses have a lot to learn about this new type of employee.

(Williams)
I will provide my prospective to the question as I put forth the idea of "Me, Incorporated." My first comment would be the reframing of 'a company of one'. Though that might be considered mere semantics, "Me-Inc." more accurately reflects the intent of my statement. I feel we have the responsibility to direct our career path - that is to develop the skills necessary to compete in today's marketplace, to continue lifelong learning to keep skills current, to develop ourselves to contribute, etc. Among the skills required in today's environment is the ability to work effectively in a team environment. It includes - from a strategic standpoint - putting the customer first and contributing to the overall well being of the organization and team. At times that will include putting the team/firm needs above one's own. To me, that is a strategy for recognition, promotability, and growth. It is not blind loyalty - but rather - a win for you, your team and your organization.

Question

What role will e-commerce play in your business model as we move into the next century?

Answers

(Swaim)
E-Commerce is becoming a very, very strong factor in our business models at Compaq. Our market vision is that e-commerce will be a major factor that enables and shapes paradigm shifts in people's business and personal lives.

(Jones)
E-commerce will be key to all business in the future. In our case, electronic mail that was first introduced in 1981 has completely changed the way communications take place. Electronic Data Interchange systems have been used for some time with major customers and suppliers. The Internet is quickly replacing EDI. We use our home page as a means of communicating with customers, suppliers and prospective employees. Our full catalog is available on the Internet today. Work is underway to add the ability to place orders directly into our systems via the Internet. In the future everyone will have full time access to the Internet and will transact most of their personal and commercial business on line. E-commerce is how we will do our business cheaper, better, and faster.

*Danny Cooper and Stephen Flatt are Mayberry Graduate Assistants.

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