To meet the needs of all the stakeholders, to be agile, to innovate, to respond faster, to deliver a "serving" and not just a "service" mentality – means greater involvement of more people, in more places, more of the time. The organisation of the future will, of necessity, be Flat, Fertile (to new ideas), Followership-based, Flexible, Focused and Fast … especially fast.
A team of teams where people have the ability to act without asking permission. A risk-oriented, collaborative, ideas-driven culture that puts decision-making as close to the customer as possible. A business context where the space between teams is considered as important as the work that goes on within the teams.
Networks are dynamic, they are an enabler of change and they empower people to make decisions that eschew the long-established "ask permission" safety net. In that a system can never be more effective than its most recalcitrant part, it's important to recognise that where the organisation operates as a team of teams, mediocrity from even one team impacts the effectiveness of the whole. No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Great organisations are built on great teams.
The essence of a fertile organisation – one where creativity is the currency of competition – is to distinguish between cooperation and collaboration. Cooperation can work well in addressing an established challenge. An explicit customer request, for example, that involves several teams or divisions from across the business. Collaboration is demanded if you want to create something new. An offering, for example, that the customer hasn't directly requested or, in some instances, doesn't even know they need.
Cooperation demands the kind of trust that comes from everyone keeping their pre-agreed promise. The trust that lies at the heart of collaboration is far more about shared values and the spirit of altruism. When competing on ideas the difference is important. We are describing an environment where loyalty to the tribe gives way to a true sense of community; where doing right is more important than being right and where a shared name gives way to a shared story.
The ideal organisation design reflects how people, given the choice, would choose to work together. Every organisation is a network of informal networks. There is a natural force inside every organisation, large and small, for people to work together that, if afforded the opportunity, optimises their contribution.
The organisation form of tomorrow, in recognising that, strips out tribal boundaries (silos), rules, barriers, impediments and roadblocks that prevent that from happening. When how you work together dictates whether you will survive or not, you tend to figure out how to get it right. Given the opportunity – assuming the context supports it – few groups are more involved, inventive and innovative than a self-organising team.
The capacity to adapt speaks to a way for people to work together that allows leadership to emerge regardless of their functional role. Leadership is a response to a challenge and/or opportunity … not a title. If everyone on the team sounds and acts the same, being adaptable is highly unlikely. This speaks to diversity. It also outlines the need for the team to contain within it the capacity to deliver a range of behaviours that contribute to the overall success of the team (team roles).
Like a team of two horses pulling the same plough, flexibility and resilience travel in harness. Resilience isn't just adapting to change; it's facing a new tomorrow with a passion to learn. It's not just bouncing back after a setback; it's becoming stronger as a result of the challenges faced. And resilience isn't a solo endeavour; resilient leaders surround themselves with, and are strengthened by, resilient people on the team. The capacity to adapt is, ultimately, a mindset.
Have you ever noticed how those who display mastery in something always seem to have more time? It's impossible to be fast at something you don't excel at. No less important … speed without clarity is the business equivalent of driving too fast while having a badly cracked windscreen.
What does your organisation, literally, do better than anyone else (your core competency)? Outsource, shut down or seek to off-load the rest. That doesn’t mean that defining your core competency is always a straightforward exercise. If you want to create tomorrow, today you need to be able to focus on both the immediate and the strategic targets.
Today is the slowest things will ever be. Technology, the aggression and agility of new market entrants and the ever-increasing clock speed that technology affords means that if you are not fast you are not going to stay in the game. How people learn determines not only how and where future value is created but how the organisation deals with uncertainty. In the world we are moving into, speed of action is a given. Even more important, however, is speed of learning. Indeed, how quickly your organisation (collectively) learns is almost certainly the only sustainable competitive advantage.
Put it this way – if the competition is learning faster than you are, you are falling behind. And if they learn faster than you for an extended length of time, it will be very difficult to catch up. If you want to better understand the culture you have and the culture you need, explore (measure) how people in your organisation learn.
If the competition is building an organisation that is flatter, more fertile, to a greater degree followership-based, with greater flexibility, faster than you are, and with a laser-like focus on critical outcomes … no matter how good your product, you don't have a future … you have a problem. Insights from "Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams".
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