The Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge: Creating Inspired, Open, and Free Organizations
Co-authored by Colin Price.
In their new book, Beyond Performance: How great organizations build ultimate competitive advantage, Scott Keller and Colin Price identify nine factors that are critical to organizational health:
|Leadership||Coordination & Control||External Orientation|
|Culture & Climate||Capabilities||Innovation & Learning|
Organizations that thrive over the long run, in good times and bad, pay explicit attention to all these issues. Three of them, though, seem particularly crucial as we think about new challenges confronting us today.
Motivation: As products, services and even knowledge itself get commoditized ever more rapidly, we need organizations that are capable of producing a steady stream of highly differentiated products and services. This requires imagination, which is, in turn, the product of passion. In business as in other aspects of life, passion is the difference between "insipid" and "inspired." Innovation doesn't come from dispirited employees.
Amazing contributions don't come from employees who feel like conscripts. Therein lies the problem. By one recent estimate, only 14% of employees around the world are highly engaged in their work. This has to change. We must be as rigorous and inventive about inspiring passion and unleashing contribution as we are about every other aspect of business.
External orientation: In our hair-trigger economy, customer preferences change at light speed. Unexpected new challenges can pop up at any moment, and new opportunities come and go in the blink of an eye. The environment for business is more dynamic, more complex, and more global than ever. Given that, we need organizations that can draw meaningful insights out of the maelstrom of fragmentary and incoherent data that daily surrounds them. We need companies where every individual is equipped to sense emerging trends, where the implications for action are rapidly recognized, and the necessary resources are quickly brought to bear.
The decision lags typical of large, bureaucratic organizations are becoming untenable. Individuals on the front lines must have the discretionary power to respond instantly to shifting circumstances. Rather than moving information up to those with authority, authority must be pushed down to those with real-time information.
Coordination & Control: With global supply chains, distributed production networks, and virtual teams, the challenges of coordination are more pressing than ever. In most organizations, managers are the rivets that hold everything together. They connect activities, teams, programs, and business units. The implicit assumption: coordination requires a hierarchy of coordinators. Problem is, hierarchy adds costs and reduces responsiveness. What's needed now are ways of integrating complex activities with little or no management overhead.
And then there's control: Managers are often the enforcers. It's their job to ensure that procedures are followed, budgets are met, and slackers are punished. But again, a supervisory superstructure is expensive and profoundly disempowering. We need organizations where control comes less from rules and sanctions, and more from norms and peers. We need to radically reduce the management costs associated with both coordination and control.
Hence The Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge, the second leg of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation. Help us build organizations that are fundamentally fit for human beings, characterized by:
Total Passion: We know a lot about what it takes to drive deep engagement: purpose, self-direction, a sense of community, and opportunities to grow are a few of the most important. What we're looking for are examples where engagement has been taken to new heights--where management assumptions, processes, and behaviors have been radically overhauled in ways that create a sense of adventure, that inspire leaps of imagination, that foment excitement, and take the work out of work. If you don't have a real-world case to share, invent a hack--a bold, new idea for turning contented team members into zealous ones.
Outside-In: How can we turn an entire organization into a sensory organ, ever alert to the changing dynamics of the marketplace? How can we dramatically improve the signal-to-noise ratio in environment scanning? How can we ensure that weak signals don't get filtered out when the implications are politically uncomfortable? How can we eliminate the lags between "sense" and "respond?" How do we mobilize teams and resources faster than ever? And how can we inject the voice of the customer into every decision? More generally, how can we create organizations where a lot fewer people are inward-focused and a lot more are outward-focused--and where contributions at the edges are every bit as important as those emanating from the center? Once again, we're looking for game-changing practices and mind-flipping hacks.
Managing without Managers: Managing is largely about controlling and coordinating--the question is, can the work of managing be pushed out to the periphery of our organizations? Can it be automated? Can it be dispensed with entirely? Is it possible for an organization to be highly decentralized and precisely synchronized? Can you get discipline without disciplinarians? Are there ways of combining the freedom and flexibility advantages of markets with the control and coordination advantages of traditional hierarchies? Can we reduce the performance drag of our top-heavy management structures without giving anything up in terms of focus and efficiency? To what extent can "self-management" or "peer-management" substitute for "manager-management?" If you've got some hard evidence, or just a wild idea, share it with the world.
Help us turn healthy organizations into world-class athletes that are able to vault over tomorrow's challenges.