December 31, 2010 at 12:41am
Ever heard of topsy-turvey? This is a thought about just that. How to turn an organisation on its head and to improve its prospects in our future business world. How to make partnered employees from simple employees and why an organisation would be better off without a CEO but rather a management team and self-managing staff. We look at the usefulness (or not) of allowing single entity (almost dictatorial) locus of control vested in an individual who might (or might not) have the best interests of the organisation/employees/shareholders at heart. Raise it to the ground and let people do what people do best! They can be trusted.
What is Leadership Vision? Should this be attributed to a single entity (individual) locus or more widely spread across an organisation? Past, present & future. Our roots are in the past, we all address the future & we all deal with the realities of life on a daily basis. Why do we have CEO's? Are they somehow more knowledgeable than anyone else associated with a specific organisation? Do they have extraordinary powers that make them invincible? I don't think that they do. On the contrary, my experience shows that they tend to stifle all before them in search of delivering results that the Board & Shareholders demand simply to be able to live the high life and at whose expense? Now, the above is a bit of a statement, but the fact is that where a CEO has exclusive vision (and control), be that leadership or not, anything that queries that wisdom will be wiped aside as unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) or even worse still, be taken as being of no consequence. It is time to take the boat of uncertainty out of the water and to trash convention - aren't we all tired of being quoted Maslow by now? Let us shed our shackles and question why we in fact need a CEO. What does he know that the Janitor does not? I'm willing to bet that the CEO (paid in the millions) and the Janitor (possibly only paid in the thousands) have the same fundamental understanding of the organisation at any given time. The difference of course is that the CEO can allow the organisation to shed half its value and suffer no ill consequence (experientially so) while still receiving "performance" bonuses throughout (to highlight my case and this might not be the general trend). The value shed, was of course, not the fault of the CEO, blame it on the recession, anyone, anything, but not the CEO. The Janitor on the other hand forgets to empty a trash can and s/he will almost certainly be disciplined, with the potential of job loss (for repeated misdemeanors) looming on the horizon - we just don't care what this impact will have on the individual or the community at this level apparently. Not fair I say! What we need here is to turn the organisation upside down (topsy-turvey) and fetch the closest steamroller that we can find and to flatten the structure into a single layer entity. That won't work, you say! Well, here is my take on this, for the future health of organisations. Your business is its people - no ifs, buts or maybes - yet after huge spends on attracting the best that we can find, we treat them like trash, just numbers - numbers without thoughts, etc. We call them 'resources' (not capital) as if they were something to be taken up, used and spat out as a product (or service) - probably a poor one at that! We take no (very little) heed of the fact that they are humans, have thoughts & desires and possibly have the potential knowledge to know more than we do. And this includes the Janitor! They are not invited to contribute, are never listened to and certainly do not exist at any level below management as conventionally 'wise' people.
I say: Dump convention. Toss out the idea of single entity control (leadership, management, whatever you prefer to call it). Forget about "best practise" (what's that you may ask?) - which places you on the playing field where everyone else is. Fire the periodic (forced) transformations - read here 'when the going gets tough' and which usually leads to layoffs. Get the Board to do what they are paid for. How we should manage the future: I do say: Dream innovation, believe in agile transformation, develop best processes and commit to employee career and community partnerships. Learn how to mitigate against risk and not be afraid of it - don't let paralysis take control - everything has risk but choose the path that offers the absolute best (evaluate all options, and I mean ALL options) result(s) even if there is some pain along the way - this for the greater good. Look at the playing field and determine to be where the ball is going to be next - it doesn't matter what ball game you are playing - innovate - not where it was or where it is now (best practise?). Develop processes that are the best for YOUR organisation and OPTIMISE, OPTIMISE and OPTIMISE some more, in other words transform with agility, every day! If we transform daily then when the crunch comes it will be as if nothing changed because we were there ahead of the game.
Removal of the single entity control and replacing it with a team of all employees. This is of course fundamentally impossible in a large organisation (by sheer dint of numbers) so we would possibly have to look at a team (predetermined number who represent ALL of the partners [employees] and external stakeholders) and arrange job share/rotation so that no single individual has ultimate control at any given time - no absolute control over vision, mission, etc - that can be forced on the organisation and/or (unwilling) partners. Upper level management (as determined above) leaders should be expected to cross-work, in fact there would be distinct advantages in placing, for example, HR in charge of R&D, R&D in charge of Engineering, etc, (and then rotating) as this will challenge conventionality (professional managers?) and force (by experience only) all levels to work consistently harder (while learning) to get on top of their game. Members who are not able to achieve this are clearly not adaptable and their usefulness to the organisation should be challenged/questioned. Career partnerships must be developed with all other employees - allow them to determine where, why, what & how they can effectively contribute to growth in the organisation. Require them to take a stake in ownership (physical) and expect them to accept "pay at risk" for non-performance - both personal & organisational. Critically, let them self-manage at as many levels as is feasible.
Top level re-engineering to reflect flattened operation and re-designation/allocation of shared/cross-worked jobs with removal of CEO as the ultimate source of decision-making/taking. Career partnership design and undertaking in line with shared ownership/risk. Knitting everyone together into a community and living that community inwards and outwards. Challenging all internal & external stakeholders to outdo themselves, to stretch and reach and to always reward such efforts. Let the organisation live in its external community and not simply be and employer there. Let creativity flow, encourage it and always reward it. Never ignore suggestions that employed partners should be encouraged to give. Something suggested might not feasible now, but who knows what the future might hold. Live suggestions, breathe suggestions and process them all. Notify all participants (employed partners) what could and couldn't be used - broadcast (communicate) results on a continuing basis but beware of over-broadcasting irrelevant information. Help employed partners to become passionate about what they do as well as the organisation based on the above. Encourage differing viewpoints (not line-towing) - to improve the organisation, no matter how outrageous they may be. These can be accepted, adapted or rejected (with specific reason). Empower employed partners to Lead To Serve and not to Serve To Lead