On Saturday, I found a really good definition of ‘Agency’:
“People are ‘conscious, reflecting initiators of acts in a structured, meaningful world.’ They are not simply programmed to follow scripts defined by roles; they instigate actions, often with considerable intelligence, creativity and improvisation.”*
We see this all the time outside work. People restore whole canals, railways, buildings. They run clubs for all sorts of activities. They learn difficult skills as a hobby. They volunteer to do boring or ridiculous, dangerous things for charities. Even more so during a crisis, as now.
It seems that people can’t help themselves. Given the smallest chance, they spontaneously create value, as long as they feel they have a ‘structured, meaningful world’ to do it in.
Of course a workplace can be a ‘structured, meaningful world’, in which people can behave as ‘conscious, reflecting initiators of acts’, but far too often, it isn’t.