Replace the fundamental control relationship in the organization from ‘boss-subordinate’ to ‘mentor investor-intrapreneur team’, where mentor investors are modeled on the angel investors of Silicon Valley and elsewhere: they sponsor, advise, and tap social networks to help teams succeed, but don’t directly control.
Some of the organizational symptoms are unengaged and passive employees, high turnover, a lack of innovation, and high inertia against change and adaptation. But those problems stem from a deeper problem in the core relationship of the organization: a command-and-control hierarchy of bosses and subordinates.
The problems of the traditional boss-subordinate relationship (and the overall command-and-control hierarchy) are well known and almost too many to list: controlling, abusive, toxic bosses (Kellerman’s 7 types: incompetent, rigid, intemperate, callous, corrupt, insular, evil), bureaucracy, Machiavellian politics, empire building, innovation-killing, low engagement, passive employees, disempowering, arrogance, self-serving, micromanagement, information, resource, and talent hoarding, etc.
Please don't be offended if you yourself are a boss. Obviously the majority of bosses do not exhibit most of these traits, but I think most would agree that this behavior is common in most large organizations. The point is the need for a new approach, as opposed to patches on the existing fundamentally flawed system - as summed up in this quote from the attached chart pack:
Imagine if America's founding fathers had gone with monarchy instead of democracy, but with really great leadership training so we had 'better kings'?
Rebuild organizations around a new core relationship: mentor investors and intrapreneurial teams. Mentor investors are modeled on the angel investors of Silicon Valley and elsewhere: they sponsor, advise, and tap social networks to help teams succeed, but don’t directly control (think of the famous Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway).
- Invest in project teams
- Provide resource allocation control
- Are accountable for good judgment on investments (value-added, RoI, peer review)
- May mostly invest inside their domain/expertise within the organization, but may also occasionally invest outside of it.
- They may also promote key themes they’d like to invest in to attract intrapreneurs to key problems or opportunities.
- Syndicate with others to spread risk on larger projects
- Intrapreneurial teams can choose from many investors; not locked in to one boss, and a single ‘no’ up the hierarchy can’t kill an idea – but a single ‘yes’ from any mentor investor can get an idea off the ground
- ‘Funds’ can be spread wide to all employees (like Google’s 20% time), or more concentrated in trusted executives
- Bad ones are naturally filtered out over time:
- Won’t find teams willing to take their investments
- Don’t get access to the best investments or talent
- Investment performance will suffer
Intrapreneurial project teams pitch improvement ideas against the ‘open source operations model’ of the organization, including all processes, systems, assets, and operational roles transparently modeled inside a Wikipedia-like collaborative software system. This operations model provides an ongoing organizational core of stability and efficiency that ad hoc project teams can work on and around to provide innovation, adaptation/change, and engagement. Organizational resources not dedicated to operations – including money and employee time - are available for investment by mentor investors.
Employees may hold a dynamic portfolio of many different roles - including part-time mentor investor, project leader or contributor, and/or operational roles - and are accountable for their voluntary commitments and overall utilization via peer review. They can shift their role portfolio over time to stay in the engaged and productive Flow zone – not bored, burned-out, or overwhelmed.
- Power shifts from abusive and controlling – based on position and fear - to balanced and mentoring - based on respect, trust, and expertise.
- Transplants Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem inside the organization. Innovation flourishes as intrapreneurs and self-organizing project teams can pitch multiple potential mentor investors for sponsorship. They only need a single ‘yes’, as opposed to ideas being killed by a single ‘no’ anywhere up the traditional hierarchy.
- People are more engaged and passionate on small intrapreneurial teams - like they are at startups.
- Proactive, bottom-up, self-organizing initiatives instead of reactive, top-down assignments.
- Internal markets for talent, ideas, and money instead of political power struggles.
- Open and transparent organizations instead of siloed and opaque.
- Nobody ‘owns’ employees anymore, reducing fiefdoms.
- No more communication limits like those typically found in hierarchies, especially when it comes to bypassing the boss.
- Benefits for employees: freedom/autonomy, engagement, dignity, fun, empowerment, more leadership opportunities, easier to demonstrate your value and be rewarded on merit instead of politics or biding your time until the next promotion opportunity
- Benefits for managers (who shift to being mentor investors and/or project team leaders): a lot more opportunities to be the 'good guy' instead of the 'bad guy', healthier relationships with colleagues, reduced politics, easier to demonstrate your value and be rewarded on merit instead of politics or biding your time until the next promotion opportunity
- Benefits for the organization: innovation, adaptation, continuous improvement, risk mitigation, less turnover, motivated and engaged employees, fuller talent utilization
- Educating all employees on the new vision. Coaching existing bosses on the transition to mentor investors.
- Build as much of the open source operations model as possible. Operational roles are defined.
- First Phase: Bosses keep current jobs/departments while also mentor investing on a trial basis.
- Second Phase: Bosses keep supervisory role over their operations domain, while discretionary project resources shift to internal free market. Mentor investing expanded.
- Third Phase: Operations shift to fully self-organizing based on the open source operations model. Bosses finish transition to mentor investor role (as well as being project leaders and contributors).
Inspired by the writings of Hamel, Malone, and too many others to list, as well as practices at W.L. Gore, Morning Star, Semco, and others.