My final topic of these 3 parts: We have a full mythology of what can and can’t be done in organisations, and part of that mythology follows the bimodal mentality that I referred before. It says that either you change by a full revolution, getting the organisation upside down, guillotining a few and imposing macho-style strategies, or it will take a long time before anything can be different.
However, the reality is that massive change with a capital C can be induced by a series of smaller c changes, with potentially dramatic effects in short periods of time. But it will need a completely different mental model to address those changes, not fiddling with incrementalism in current processes and systems. As an example, a shorter and improved quarterly report does not necessarily solve a potentially unnecessary bureaucracy of meaningless reports that nobody reads, in the same way that giving budget responsibility to project team leaders may not solve any issue of empowerment if those project leaders hardly have any authority at all and become disguised administrators of somebody else’s money.
I have three recommendations to seriously start looking inside the organisation and embark upon a renewal process that is neither simply incremental nor paralysing of organisational life with massive organisational-chart-management.
- Change the “who-needs-to-do-what” mentality to “who-needs-to-know-what”. The former breeds divisional disciplines and organisation charts by tribes (chemists, biologists, engineers…) The latter takes knowledge sharing as the driver for organisational groupings. Hopefully the two models overlap!
- Focus on behaviours above processes and systems. Not taking risks; blaming others; not following decisions; admiring problems; being information gatekeepers; not rewarding success or getting away with murder (non compliance followed by no consequence) – all of these have more to do with managing innovation and productivity than many process re-engineering efforts.
- If you were to choose a key behavioural driver to start with, choose collaboration. Human collaboration is in my opinion a key focus. Despite our hyper-connectivity, we have not mastered how people do this and part of the problem is that we have had for many years one single model of human collaboration in mind: the team. We have created teamocracies instead of companies and now we are short of alternative knowledge and models.
Creating initiatives that deal with fast injection of these three topics in a very practical way, starts addressing the potential reality that, perhaps, the organization’s worst enemy is not in the unquestionable tough external environment but within the borders of the organisation chart.