If You Don't Grow the People In The Business, You Can't Grow The Business

It is already evident that there is a significant disconnect between the opportunity digitalisation offers (cost, speed, productivity and agility) and a way to organise that has its roots in the last century (hierarchical structure).

It took a third of a century for new organisational forms to emerge in the twentieth century and, in like vein, it's still not clear what lies ahead for organisation design in this one. In the meantime, overtures suggesting that the immediate future lies with the absence of hierarchy, self-managed teams and a "boss-less" workplace should be labelled "adopting this could be extremely dangerous to your organisation's health".

As technology becomes ever more pervasive, the meta question becomes, "What is an organisation?"

What is clear is that tomorrow's organisation will be Flat, Fast, Focused, Flexible, Followership dominated, and Fertile (to new ideas). It will also be a team of teams. Teamwork has always been a critical issue in building a successful organisation. Moving forward, it will be even more so. If you don't grow the people in the business, you can't grow the business.

Work on culture poses the following questions:

  1. Is the coaching that takes part on the team - especially when team members coach each other - informed by the culture the organisation is working to create? How could you ensure that is the case?
  2. Is it normal for team members, regardless of status, to challenge other team members if the way that a colleague behaves, or, if the actions suggested aren't supportive of the organisation's values? What would it take for that to happen?
  3. Is the hiring process (external and internal) appropriately skewed to deliver "team fit" - short and longer term? What actions, if any, are needed?
  4. Is there an effective and proven way to regularly assess team effectiveness? Is it recognised that when someone new joins the team there is, essentially, a new team? What do you need to do to ensure that new hires understand the culture the organisation is moving towards?
  5. Is it understood that developing a lasting relationship with the customer is a team game? How will you create that mindset?
  6. Do teams across the organisation have both performance and team success criteria? How and when will you introduce team success criteria?
  7. Is creating/nurturing psychological safety (comfort with speaking out, candour, challenging the status quo, asking tough questions) a performance requirement for even the most junior team leader? How will you make that happen?
  8. Is it clear that in much that can be described as "leadership," the leader works for the team? What needs to change?
  9. Is it understood that in the "art of change", nothing is more impactful than "catching people doing it right". What will you start to do tomorrow to bring the spirit of affirmation to your leadership?
  10. Is the difference between cooperation and collaboration fully understood? How will you nurture collaboration?

Beyond some form of collective osmosis, it's pretty difficult to grow and improve as a team if there is no agreement around what team success looks like. Team success criteria are developed collectively by the team and capture the behaviour needed for the team to be successful. Team success criteria should be posted in the room where the team meets, reviewed at the end of every meeting and revisited when someone new joins the team.

It's entirely misleading to suggest you can change the organisation one person at a time. Changing the organisation one team at a time, however, is both possible and essential.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".


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