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Announcing the Winners of the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge

by Polly LaBarre on February 14, 2012


polly-labarre's picture

Announcing the Winners of the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge (the second leg of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation) today.

We asked some big questions in our quest to bust bureaucracy:

  • What does it mean to build an organization in which everyone is aligned and inspired by a deeply-felt sense of purpose?
  • What does it take to ignite the edges of the organization--to close the gaps between "sense" and "respond" and to make the insights and contributions of every individual matter?
  • How do we reduce the performance drag of top-heavy management structures, replace "manager-management" with a more agile self- or peer-management, and create a vibrant social system in the process?

And we received a flood of big ideas and game-changing initiatives and experiments from management innovators in all kinds of organizations around the world. Last month, we had the tough job of narrowing the pool down to fourteen excellent finalists--now we're proud to introduce you to the seven winners.

WeOrg: The Freedom to Choose
Story by Dan Bean, Robert Musson, and Chermaine Li

More often than not, when organizations shuffle the deck in anticipation of a new strategy or product cycle, the experience is dislocating, dispiriting, and dehumanizing. It's easy to feel like a box on the org chart when your destiny is rerouted from on high—and easier still to take a step out the door. Dan Bean and his team within Microsoft's Lync Test group set out to reinvent the ritual "reorg" by letting go of control and engaging everyone on the team as collaborators in the process. They call it a "WeOrg"—and their story offers up a playbook for any organization looking to inject more freedom and self-regulation into its operations.

Taking reality seriously - towards a more self-regulating management model at Statoil
Story by Bjarte Bogsnes

Bjarte Bogsnes recounts the journey of $90 billion Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil toward a more resilient management model—one designed to distribute freedom and accountability as broadly as possible. Bogsnes and his team focused on two powerful levers: abolishing the traditional budget in favor of a more dynamic and distributed process, and scrapping the annual calendar for a more continuous and variable approach to setting time-horizons for a particular business or project. It's a big-ticket shift that is already yielding big impact—from employee engagement to increased agility to real performance gains.

Managing Beyond the Organizational Hierarchy with Communities and Social Networks at Electronic Arts
Story by Michael Cuthrell

How do you manage a vast, complex, globally-distributed organization to maximize coordination and independence, predictable high performance and game-changing innovation? Video game behemoth Electronic Arts has been actively exploring that question for the last several years. One answer: the creation of cross-company virtual collaborative communities based on shared passion (whether around a specific technology or a particular role or even a business process). More than an "internal social network," EA's communities approach is a clever design—including a "light governance" model and guidelines for integrating community activities into "regular" operations--for cultivating a rich and productive social fabric inside the organization.

Cutting the cord: Vodafone UK's revolutionary approach to mobility, flexibility & productivity
Story by Guy Laurence

Vodafone UK's CEO Guy Laurence shares the story of the mobile phone company's radical experiment in shedding the organizational straightjacket to create a more awake, responsive, and digital native-friendly company. Forget "hot desking," Vodafone UK has taken the technology mantra of "eating your own dogfood" to the extreme with an open, "weightless" workplace--no offices or assigned desks, no tethered phones or computers, a rich variety of purpose-built meeting spaces, one file drawer per person, a tough "clean desk" policy (any documents or belongings left on a desk overnight will be disappeared), and lots of coffee. The results were immediate and dramatic: from a dramatic reduction in meetings, paper, flights, the speed of decision-making, and sales cycle times to increased revenue growth, collaborative problem-solving--and tours of Vodafone headquarters.

From bureaucratic, divided, passive and exhausted to productive, creative, autonomous, and happy
Story by Tsukasa Makino

Tokyo-based insurance company Tokio Marine Nichido Systems (TMN) took an earnest, homespun approach to radical transformation. Burned out from a merger in 2005, TMN launched a "work style reform" initiative which has grown progressively more autonomous, transparent, and Web-enabled. Today, employees define their own roles and responsibilities, choose where and when to work, launch "Next Dream" projects to promote a strategic priority, and use social technology to bid out problems internally and connect with the wider community. Board members even open their daily schedules and decision making process to commentary from the whole organization.

Retire-a-Little: Enabling More Fulfilled Working Lives
Hack by Ricardo Semler

Ricardo Semler, the original management maverick, shares a radical design for rethinking the traditional career by building retirement into work and work into retirement. The "Retire-a-Little" hack springs from Semler's company's, the Brazilian conglomerate Semco, twenty-five year experiment in reinventing the organization to maximize freedom, flexibility, humanity, informality, and innovation. The program addresses the classic mismatch between our supply of time, money, and health and our ability to exercise those resources. Why should we spend our most energetic years striving and achieving and leave our true passions to our creaky "golden" years? No reason at all, says Semler, who offers up a clever design for employees to "buy back" one day of the week to spend on "retirement" pursuits—and the opportunity to trade in those retirement hours for meaningful work in their later years.

Growing People: The Heart of the Organizational Transformation
Story by Pamela Weiss and Todd Pierce

What if training and development programs unleashed human potential—rather than packed people full of curricula, models, and competencies? More to the point, what if cultivating a successful inner life was front and center on the leadership agenda? That's the question Todd Pierce asked himself after years of experimenting with the full menu of leadership development models in his capacity as CIO of biotech giant Genentech. He answered it, along with executive coach and mindfulness teacher Pamela Weiss, by creating the "Personal Effectiveness Program"—a transformative, year-long experience with mindfulness practices at the center that has yielded extraordinary results in terms of engagement, customer satisfaction, collaboration and communication. Pierce and Weiss's story offers a short course in how to instill greater resilience, responsiveness, and emotional maturity in your organization.

Congratulations to the winners—and a hearty thanks to everyone who contributed to this challenge. Reinventing management for the 21st century is a big job and an ever-evolving conversation--please read through the entries, watch the original videos, add your comments, questions, and builds. Together, we can move beyond bureaucracy to a more human, resilient, inventive, and inspiring form of organization.

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jay-compton's picture

Ms LaBarre,

Thank you for the MIX. Great place to ignite tomorrow, today.

The announcement of “winners” caused me to pause and ask, “that means someone lost.” I find the notion of a winner very closely linked to our outdated system of rewards and compensation; individual contribution trumps. We all know real success comes from highly integrated team play; the sum of the whole is greater than any individual.

What I am trying to say is the MIX is a catalyst for linking management innovation together. This linking has numerous participants worldwide. Is not our goal to define for us a living process that is about being and managing that changes to remain in step with an ever-changing world?

The stories, and hacks can’t be easily quantified or sorted without individual context (the author’s original view). In doing so the MIX is exhibiting the same behavior that the hierarchical, command-and-control world has always done, selected whom the winners and losers are. Every person associated with MIX, contributor and reader alike, are winners!

Finally, I would like to leave with some fitting philosophy:

“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn.” – Matsuo Basho

 Be very careful about bringing ourselves into the MIX, for we are “here” look forward and learn together.

Thank you,

Looking forward