HSM Spotlight: What can Michael Scott teach us about running an organisation?

I am currently re-watching The Office for the fifth time with my partner, who is watching it for the first time. After the pilot episode, he asked me, “Why don’t they just fire Michael? He’s terrible”, to which I replied, “You will see.”

Michael Scott, Manager at Dunder Mifflin Paper Co, uses 80% of his time distracting others, 19% in procrastination, and 1% for critical thinking. He certainly gets many things wrong. But we, at HSM Advisory, agree with him on a fundamental element of leading an organisation – People.

To teach the temp a lesson, Michael says “A good manager inspires people. People, Ryan. And people will never go out of business.” I think this single-handedly explains Michael’s success. He puts People at the heart of his leadership style.

Why is this of particular importance now?

Globally we have gone through unprecedented (I had to) shifts in the past few years. On the coattails of lockdowns, where we experienced loss and rekindled friendships on Zoom, we partook in a mass shift to hybrid working. After which came the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, war, cost-of-living crisis, and now the threat of recession looms near. As a society, we are coming to the reckoning that change, and the ensuing instability, is a constant. Therefore, we are re-evaluating what really matters to us.

In the midst of this, as a future of work consultant, I am seeing an increased value placed on being authentic to oneself in all areas, doing ‘good work’, and being a part of an organisation that has the ‘X’ factor.

What is this X factor and how can organisations get it?

They can take a page from Michael’s book and start by putting People at the heart of their workplace design. With this lens, it becomes easier to understand that People stay at organisations, like Dunder Mifflin, because of two things: How People Feel and What Work Gives People.

How People Feel is based on:

– Experiencing a collective identity that goes beyond the individual

– Feeling a sense of well-being

– Sharing a common purpose that unites them and their colleagues

These factors enable people to see themselves as part of something on a day-to-day basis. We no longer want to live in a constant wait for the weekends. Instead, we want workplaces that are able to fulfil our desire for connection to other people and ourselves.

What Work Gives People is about:

– Doing sustainable work that simultaneously supports their well-being and performance

– Receiving competitive rewards and recognition

– Having dynamic growth and development opportunities

Organisations that believe that people are lazy and can only be motivated through punishments are outdated. People want satisfaction and reward for their work.

In People’s revaluation after the series of changes, they are increasingly deciding that they want an organisation that both caters to their ambition and understands their emotional needs.

That is the X factor.

And that is what Michael Scott offers. My partner will soon see that for himself.

Intentionally create a workplace that considers both elements to design a workplace that is for your People. Because People will never go out of business.


Author: Kautuki Jariwala, Junior Consultant at HSM Advisory