A few years ago, the BBC broadcast a series called ‘How we built Britain’, presented by the veteran David Dimbleby. In the episode dedicated to the Victorians, he said something, almost in passing, which has stuck in my mind since: ‘For every problem, the Victorians had a building’. Growing local government? OK, here we are, big City Halls (Manchester, Leeds… ) Actually, Manchester thought of itself as the new Florence. Mental illness? Sure, the big asylums are built in the form of ‘mini-towns’ (all services included) which the great Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman (1922-1982), would call ‘Total Institutions’. Mass transportation? No problem, railways and their cathedral-like train stations appear. Add also big churches, big shopping malls (probably not called this) and big leisure centres. ‘The building’ was the answer. And the bigger, the better.
‘Management’ is the ‘Victorian Architecture’ of the modern organization. For every problem we create a structure: a new business unit, a new franchise, a new committee, a new task force, a new merger of A and B, a new management team, a restructuring, a new structural or functional conceptual building as ‘the answer’. We have become very good at providing structural solutions to problems that may, for example, require behavioural rather than structural answers. A typical scenario is amalgamating A and B into C because A and B do not talk to each other. We create a new building C, but people still are not talking to each other. (Mind you, we have saved a Sr VP salary).
The Big Ones of the consulting industry have sold us ‘(re)structure’ as the answer to everything. In part because Organization Chart Permutations are an easy thing to do. If you want to be seen doing something, change the structure. Small detail, ‘the building‘ may not be the answer. In fact, ‘the new building’ may be a big distraction and create an illusion of ‘problem solved’ and control.
I am bound to say this because of my background and my own work, but, for every managerial problem, we should look first for a behavioural answer. It’s a good bet.
Renew, transform, re-invent the way you do things. Organizations today need to look at better ways, alternative and innovative ways to change the status quo. It’s not about being radical for the sake of it. Only if you try radical ways will you be in a better position to find your ‘fit for purpose’ goals.
As Michelangelo said: ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark’. He was a radical in the way we talk about it.
90 day programme from The Chalfont Project, which will help you create sustainable behavioural and cultural change across your organization/team/department.
Machines work on feed back, minds work on feed forward. Post Covid-19 we won’t need a thermostat. We’ll need a compass. Move North, East, West or South, but never back to normal. Because normal is not waiting for us. To combat the organizational impact of the pandemic, we need a behavioural counter-epidemic inside the company. This can be done but requires minds and hearts to get together in a real social movement, not the traditional ‘change programme’.
- 1. Behaviours (what are your key behaviours?)
- 2. Peer-to-peer networks (the greatest force in any organization)
- 3. Influence (identify your key influencers)
- 4. Storytelling (stories are more powerful than facts)
- 5. Leadership (which needs to own the ‘new normal’).
Contact my team to find out more information or discuss how we can support your business.
Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO and Chief Organization Architect of The Chalfont Project, an international firm of organizational architects, and the pioneer of Viral Change™, a people Mobilizing Platform, a methodology that delivers sustainable, large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations, which creates lasting capacity for changeability.
Dr Herrero is also an Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management.
An international speaker, Dr Herrero is regularly invited to speak at global conferences and corporate events. To invite Leandro to speak at your conference or business event contact: The Chalfont Project or email: [email protected].