I said in the first part of this Daily Thought that we needed to grab the (management) Paradox of Control. The more we lose control, the more we have of it. If we don’t have to worry abut controlling, we have maximum control.
How to start that journey? The way to think about changing your control levels for the better is simple: start by thinking, what can I do to control less? What kind of changes – perhaps structural, perhaps people-related – would I have to make in order to distribute control? If I want to lose control, I will have to trust other people in the organisation who will be sharing the control. What would prevent me from doing so? Is it the people I have? That may be part of the problem, but the problem could also be me.
Starting on this road entails, first of all, mapping the areas where control could be devolved, perhaps at some risk, and then taking some of those risks. Here are some ideas:
Push down decision making. Review decision points and delegate one to a lower level every month until you have lost most of the control. Remember, this should be the goal. You’ll need to change a few things so that it is possible.
Allocate budgetary responsibilities to groups or teams. In some product development organisations, budget is still very centralised so project teams are merely administrators. To push down budgetary responsibilities and ‘lose some control’ to the project leader, for example, could make those teams far more accountable and perhaps more business focused.
Suppress monthly reports. Cascading monthly reports down the hierarchical lines may be a waste. Ask everybody to post highlights of their progress online (intranet, team room, social network, etc.) and to do so in real time.
Overall, start a personal goal (and record your achievements): lose control of something every month, for 6 months.
Losing control is disruptive and powerful. It can spread virally by devolving and sharing accountabilities. But it needs to start somewhere… That is you.
Now, dear leader, to cheer you up, imagine…
Imagine an organisation with very ‘distributed’ accountabilities and less centralised control. Imagine what the behaviours in that organisation look like. Imagine a culture where people are asking themselves what they could control less and where those people have a plan to decrease their levels of control, instead of one to gain more. Imagine how this can spread. Imagine what the consequences are for trust and accountability across the organisation. Imagine the kind of behaviour that will be visible. What will need to change? What are the benefits? Imagine the barriers (individual or institutional) that can appear. Imagine how you will deal with them.
After stretching your imagination, have a plan. Start your Control Diet. The more you loose , the richer you will be.
PS. If you genuinely can’t lose control because the people you have, either because you don’t trust them or because they don’t have the skills, then, the problem you have is bigger than a Control one. You’d better see a doctor.