This image led me to make a brief retrospective of the last years of my career. What I’m writing is just a life experience, I do not claim that it is the truth, I think it can help a few those who are in the position to form and lead teams.
Let’s get them one by one …
HIERARCHY vs. FLATTENED STRUCTURE
I did this … and it really works. It’s not perfect (but, hey!!! what’s perfect in this world?) But it works much better than a hierarchical organisation. My challenge was quite big … we are talking about an organisation scattered in 5 countries, different cultures, different customs and all the rest … and still worked much better than a hierarchical, traditional organisation. Those of you who are in the position to lead organisations, I advise you to do so. But I also advise you not to make the mistakes I have made …
- I did it suddenly (I mean, it was not like I dreamed in the night and I implemented it in the morning but I did not timely communicate what and when it will happen), it’s right, forced by circumstances. Communication is the key, prepare it carefully, communicate it correctly and implement it gradually.
- You will have to face “boss” or “little boss” (which is even more dangerous!!!) mentalities so start thinking about the change by making a careful assessment of the people you are leading (I have written something on this topic at some point … if you are interested, you can find details here and here). This assessment should not necessarily be oriented towards professional performance but rather on the qualities that help people remain united. Be aware that a flattened organisation has no managers, has informal leaders who pull the teams forward.
- If you are determined to make such a change, be prepared to give up some people. I did not, I should have done it.
FIXED WORKING HOURS vs. FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS
That I think is a little dangerous but necessary. Be careful, it does not fit with the expectations of all employees. Before implementing this, it’s a good idea to evaluate people and see if you need to make a company policy out of it or implement it on case-by-case basis. I had cases in which I implemented this principle punctually and the results were very good, but also many cases where the work program was respected at second but no real value was brought to the organisation. On the other hand, there are a lot of employees who do not see the work other than from 9 to 17 (18 to be more accurate). This does not make them less valuable and a flexible schedule could damage their performance. However, be aware that a flexible program needs to come packaged with some good tools to measure results and performance, otherwise the only thing that you will achieve will be to transform your organisation into a charity association.
HOARDED INFORMATION vs. SHARED INFORMATION
Yes, that’s a very good principle. I applied it in very difficult times for the organisation and I got good results. Do not think that I have become more respected or loved, it was just the opposite … :)) but that’s about correctness not about personal feelings. If you do this just because you want to gain more respect or more admiration, you better not do it anymore. You will not succeed … For me, from a personal point of view, by doing this I only managed to sleep better at night and this was it …
However, although personal feelings may be important (after all we are human beings !!!), what matters is the value brought to the organisation. By implementing such a principle, the teams can be prepared and can anticipate possible difficult situations. Anticipation is the key to overcoming such situations. And as I say a secret (anyway, you know it!!!) no matter how much you try to hide certain things, people talk anyway … and not only so, they usually transform and distort the reality not necessarily because they want to do this but especially because they only “hear” few pieces of the puzzle.
So, considering the good and the bad, my advice is to be open and share information, the benefits are far greater than the disadvantages. And if you do, do it as informally as you can … it counts !!!
COMMAND&CONTROL AND FEAR-BASED LEADERSHIP vs. ENGAGING, EMPOWERING AND INSPIRING LEADERSHIP
Whether we want or do not want, leadership will always have two components (among others): a command&control component and a component of fear. It is the human nature to think that evil always comes from the leaders. However, there is also a consolation for leaders … :)) is (almost) unanimously accepted that a leader’s mission is not to make everyone happy. To be honest, in my career I have experienced both leaderships styles and I think it’s related with the process of becoming more mature and experiecenced.
The theory says leadership skills are not learned, you have to have them and polish them in time. There is also another problem when we speak of leaders, we always have the tendency to look at great personalities … let’s be serious !!! not all of us are Gandhi or Churchill or who else you may think of!!! This is not what the people you temporarily lead expects from you. And there is an important aspect also … unlike a management position that is given to you, a leadership position is not given to you, you have to earn it.
Be very careful with empowering, this is one of the most powerful tool you have in your hand but also one of the most dangerous. Do not empower the people who are always on the same page with you. In various forms, these people are part of the category “the boss is always right” and this is always wrong … you are never always right. Statistically speaking, people in this category are the first who will leave you when things go wrong. Do not empower “problem finders”, there is no value in finding problems, everybody can do this. Empower those who have at least two solutions to a problem. And, above all, do not empower those who can always identify the guilty when something goes wrong. In fact, these are the first ones you should help to find a better place to work in another company.
ON-PREMISE TECHNOLOGY vs. CLOUD TECHNOLOGY
From this point of view, it is obvious that this is the future, and the future is already here to some extend. I do not think the determined element is related to the technological advantages but rather to the costs. There are still prejudices about the fact that your information is not in your own closet so that you can close it when you want and that in the cloud it may be stolen or some strangers may have access to it. Let’s be right, if someone really wants to steal your information, it can do it just as well (and even easier) if you have it on-premise. You will never be able to protect it better than a large cloud provider (both from the technical and legal ways). My advice is to migrate as much as possible to the cloud, it is much cheaper and much safer. Most components of a business management system can stay very well in the cloud. For example, we do not own any equipment or licenses (except for laptops and mobile phones). Everything is in the cloud, no CAPEX, just OPEX and at more than reasonable costs.
EMAIL IS PRIMARY FORM OF COMMUNICATION vs. EMAIL IS SECONDARY FORM OF COMMUNICATION
We feel this every day of our life. And I’m not just talking about professional life. We communicate much more and more easily on different versions of messenger apps that are becoming more and more powerful and easier to use. We have more and more collaborative work platforms so it is no longer necessary to send files and documents by email. What I mean is that here, the future has come for some time and even the forecast has been overcome. Somehow I have the impression that email is no longer the second option of communication, I think it’s already in 3rd place or below.
CORPORATE LADDER vs. CREATE THE LADDER
I think this is one of the most sensitive topic and I think it will be the hardest to put it in place because it is primarily a matter of mentality. And I think it’s very connected with the topic related to the differences between a hierarchical organisation and a flat one. As I said above, I managed at some point to implement the flat organisation principle. With ladders, the problems are a little more complex. First of all, people tend to become a little disoriented when they realise they no longer have a traditional ladder to claim on. Second, you may not find enough ladders in the organisation. And third, even if you find enough ladders, you will most likely have to face the situation when many will consider their ladder not as solid and shining as the other ladders. This is a matter of values, people and leadership. As leader, you have to set the values. If the values are connected only to profits and high performance, most likely you will not have enough ladders and those that you will find will be so crowded so eventually will break. If the values are just empty words then will be the same or even worse. In fact, my advice is to leave a little bit aside the values … my experience showed me that it is much better to give people a purpose (why the organisation is in the business) a way ahead (how things should be done) and to explain the impact of the business. By doing so, it is very probable that they will find their own ladders. Work with people who are able to find the ladders by themselves.
SILOED AND FRAGMENTED COMPANY vs. CONNECTED AND ENGAGED COMPANY
I think this is a consequence of the complexity of business nowadays. We all know how complicated the organisation of a corporation is. What until a few years ago was called matrix organisation has long been outdated by reality. I do not even know exactly how to name it, after all it’s still a matrix but it does not have only two dimensions for a long time so it’s hard even to draw it. It is very clear that, sooner or later, this way of organising will no longer be appropriate and will no longer serve the business. We also know the principle of the direct subordination line and the dotted line of subordination. At least that can be drawn … interesting is that you see there squares from which a lots of lines are going out (these are the employees), and you feel pleased when you see that you managed to connect them all … :)), it gives you the wrong impression that you designed a functional organisation (and for sure it can be a functional organisation but not now, rather in the future when you will be able to put robots in those squares). My advice in this regard is to give up the traditional departments build around employees with about the same set of abilities and competencies (of course on different levels of seniority). Create permanent multidisciplinary teams capable of delivering end-to-end. Do not worry about business processes, processes are not related to departments, they can run on any structure.
WORK AT OFFICE vs. WORK FROM ANYWHERE
Yeah, that’s really a big deal. I experienced this personally and with the team. In fact, it can even lead to surprises (pleasant or unpleasant, depending on what part you look at). You can greatly surprise your collaborators who know that you are on a flight for many hours but do not know that you are on a plane equipped with a good connection to the internet … :))). Beyond the joke, such a way of working combined with a flexible schedule can clearly lead to better outcomes and a much stronger engagement from team members. As I said above, this thing needs to come packaged with a very good system of measuring results and performance. Until you have in place such a verified system, my advice is not to encourage the work outside the office. In addition, it is necessary to have in place some collaborative platforms that are easily accessible from anywhere, and that is what makes us think of the cloud.
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