Demolish management, and let communities in – Companies and not-for-profits can learn from exchange
This Hack considers two types of entity, the not-for-profit and the modern non-hierarchical company of the innovation economy, and suggests some simple ways that each can learn and adopt from the other.
By learning and adopting from the contemporary firm, not-for-profits can step up to radical structural change for new futures. By disintegrating, demolishing and destroying hierarchical management and systems in the not-for-profit space, and adopting an autonomous self-managed team based approach, a not for profit organisation such as a museum could change its product offering forever.
Firms with non-hierarchical autonomous team cultures could learn from a simple model adopted by some museums, by letting external communities in, to work together in an existing self-managed team on new product, sharing in potential gains and creating a competitive advantage for the company.
The not-for-profit sector has a history of slow-to-change traditional hierarchical structure, one that is evident in the not-for-profit museum. Funded by government (in NZ) and other external funders, and with CEOs reporting to boards, the structures in many of these organisations have followed a traditional hierarchical pattern, in many circumstances in place for more than 100 years.
In order to create and innovate by breaking down their self-inflicted hierarchies and boundaries, museums could learn and adopt from the autonomous self-managing team model practiced by many modern organisations, particularly in the knowledge and manufacturing sectors. By breaking away from a top down structure and what is at times described as elitist practice (one which produces product that only a few can relate to), the not-for-profit museum will facilitate employees to free-up their thinking, to be creative practitioners providing innovative experiences for the experience-hungry end-user.
In some organisations, products and services are produced for end users guided by information gained from user surveys, focus groups and other evaluative mechanisms but with little direct end-user engagement. In some museums, a community approach to product planning (exhibitions) is utilised, by offering opportunities to passionate community members to come in to the organisation to work with staff on a new exhibition by following through on their ideas.
Move to creative autonomous multi-disciplinary teams in the museum
By creating self-managing teams, hierarchical barriers are broken down in organisations. Self-managing teams are enabled to self-monitor, self-lead, and operate autonomously, planning the way they operate as a team. Autonomy, flexibility, shared leadership and assisting each other to reach shared outcomes enables successful interdependence, cohesion, and greater creativity and innovation by employees; more so than in traditional hierarchical workplaces where creativity and free-thought has often been hindered.
Alongside team work, by taking part in planning the bigger picture, employees develop a strong sense of belonging and become more engaged in the larger goals of the organisation. The not-for-profit museum could group people from different specialisations to work together in self-managing teams on new products and services.
Change the way leadership leads in the not-for-profit sector
To enable an innovative team-oriented operating model, there needs to be an organisational shift, with a mindset change starting at the top and supported by the governors and funders. Leadership must be redefined, starting with the destruction of the traditional hierarchy, and moving to a concept of shared leadership. This change is viable if the organisation is going to retain the concept of ‘leadership’, but going a step further, a suggested solution for the sector is to demolish leadership completely.
Demolish what we know as leadership in the not-for-profit museum
The option for an organisation in this era of rapid change combined with the relentlessly higher expectations of end-users, is to disestablish leadership and management positions, decentralising and de-layering the organisation. Management could be reduced to only those positions that oversee functions such as the finance and human resources (if the latter is not managed by the teams). Leadership could be distributed throughout the teams for them to collaboratively manage as they choose. By reducing the desire to control, with the absence of controllers, and with collaborative direction setting open to everybody within and across teams, creativity and entrepreneurial talent will be unleashed and organisational buy-in will increase. The employees in the not-for-profit museum, existing as an arrangement of intra-dependent autonomous multidisciplinary teams would then self-lead and co-lead, working to meet the objectives and vision of the organisation.
Corporations let communities in
The decentralized company opens up opportunities for working in multiple different ways in and between the self-managing teams. To add to these creative opportunities, a team could invite ideas for new product solutions from the external community of users and non-users, a concept similar to the community exhibition concept operated in some not-for-profit museums. By inviting external-communities in, to work with and lead a team on a new product or service concept, the team adds to its opportunity for innovation, adding to the organisation’s competitive advantage. The external participants could be remunerated depending upon the shared team gains after release of product.
The ability to work in an uncontrolled environment opens employees up to creativity
Creativity gives birth to innovative practices, strengthening the output of the organisation
Employees will have equal rights and say, strengthening their position in the organisation
Employees will develop a strong sense of belonging as their feeling of ownership increases
The output of the organisation strengthens and increases numbers of end users in the long run as product development improves.
New ideas from external communities joining forces with creative autonomous teams allow for greater innovation
Risk taking is considered normal, enabling teams to work with external communities
Buy-in from the external community increases as they see their ideas reflected, adding to the company’s sustainability
Through vision-ing workshops, and gradual organisational change by management and governance, change the traditional expectations and thinking of all staff, work with the dissenters, clarify a pathway to change
Leadership must change the expectations of funders and governors – by assisting them to comprehend the benefits for the employees and long term benefits for the organisation and its end-users
Governors must change the operation of governance, by looking outside of the traditional Board model and designing a plan for advisory oversight, including a shared responsibility for achieving outcomes between advisors and teams (by acknowledging that some oversight will always be necessary)
Leaders design a process for change to leadership – gather buy-in from enlightened leaders who will re-design the structure, including management joining teams on an equal peer-reviewed platform
Teams will develop protocols across teams, to ensure that there is a fair consistent process in place for contracting to work with external parties, including legal support
Training to occur to ensure complete buy-in from existing teams before inviting communities in.
The organisation will prepare to accept some unmitigated risk, which may mean product failure