17 mrt Why Hierarchy is Outdated
Why Hierarchy Is Outdated: The (Long Overdue) Need For Organizational Adaptability
Hierarchy is outdated. The age-old system originally designed by the military and adopted by corporate America has been rendered obsolete for the simple fact that it promotes irrelevance. Here’s why.
The very nature of a hierarchical structure places the decision-makers (“thinkers”) at the top and entry-level employees (“doers”) at the bottom. Imagine, for instance, a pyramid. Take the pyramid and cut it in half by drawing a horizontal line across its midsection, labeling the top half as “thinkers” and the bottom half as “doers.” What you have is a pyramid that mirrors the organizational structure of many businesses today; subordinates who have the front-line context but lack the decision-making power to act, and higher level executives who think they have the same context as the rest of their employees but don’t. There is a dividing line between those who do things right and those who do the right things.
But there doesn’t have to be.
Now, erase that dividing line. What happens?
The “thinkers” and “doers” merge into one. They now occupy the same space such that the pyramid becomes holistic and all-encompassing, which now means that people can both think and act autonomously because they all share the same strategic context of what the company’s objectives are and why.
This is what it means to structure for purpose. When you structure for purpose, you immediately remove the “me” mindset that pervades many cultures and instead create a shared mentality of “we” throughout, because people are now goal-bound rather than process driven. Here’s an example.
After spending 13 years in the Navy as a SEAL and performing over two hundred combat operations, I can’t think of a single mission that actually went according to plan. Not one. A new “competitor” always emerged that forced us to quickly learn and adapt to whatever that new challenge was. We began to crave more information and demand it faster and with greater accuracy than ever before. We learned, though, that it wasn’t the information that needed to travel faster but rather our readiness to receive it and our willingness to action it. Having the right information is not enough. It’s what you do with that information that determines victory or defeat , and both availability and willingness are inextricably linked.
You see, on a mission, actions don’t always run as smoothly as planned. The mechanistic process in which certainty is expected to unravel actually breedsuncertainty when results don’t match expectations, and this forces each person to question, “how do I win?” It is here, in this gap between certainty and uncertainty, in between our own readiness and willingness, where adaptability rests.
And you know what? Business is no different.
As new competitors emerge, new products are released, and industries change,your organization must be both willing and able to adapt for purpose if it wants to stay relevant . Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming obsolete.
Take, for instance, the approach of Whole Foods. When the organic food giant enters a new region they don’t build a new store from scratch but rather adopt its existing grocery line and re-purpose it towards local tastes with an organic spin.
So, how can you help your company become more adaptable? First and foremost, you need to set the environment for adaptability to occur, and that starts with creating the right ecosystem. Here are four ways to do so:
Establish organizational guardrails. Guardrails refer to the parameters in which decision-making space exists; they identify the territory where employees are allowed to operate. Employees need to know what the objectives are, the associated deadlines, and why said objectives are important, with everything in between those boundaries serving as fair game for producing results. Whole Foods does this well, as each store acts independently and is responsible for producing its own profits.
Get rid of rank. Believe it or not, rank was of little significance at one of my former SEAL commands. I remember going through selection and the instructors immediately firing senior officers and enlisted just to demonstrate that rank held no authority—that character and competence were the units of measure, not tenure . Similarly, in many companies’ meeting rooms the norm is for people to sit in their usual seats with those sitting closer to the CEO because they’re “higher ranking,” whereas those sitting in the nose-bleed section on the outskirts of the table mostly just nod their heads and say, “yes.”
Change it up. Establish a new routine. If you’re the CEO then try sitting elsewhere and letting your people run the meeting. Doing so demonstrates a willingness to work for purpose rather than adhere to the same old process. Speaking of which…
Trim the processes. When there is so much process layered upon itself creativity becomes stifled for the simple fact that there’s no space for new ideas to emerge. The brain, much like every other muscle in the body, requires rest, and without time off from focus its superhuman potential diminishes. Second, if there’s a “how-to” manual for everything then the brain won’t breed the problem-solving skills it needs to create .
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Certainty is paramount for adaptability because it provides guidance; it offers hope and confidence that the “uncertain” will become certain with a little bit of effort.
There were times in the SEAL Teams where we conducted missions without any plan. Instead, we just arrived on target to adapt–to see the enemy’s reaction–and it worked because we were in constant communication with each other such that the left hand always knew what the right hand was doing–and more importantly, why. The constant flow of information allowed us to adapt at a moment’s notice because everyone shared the same awareness, which allowed each member to make his own decisions about how best to support the mission.
When you adapt for purpose, everyone shares the same intent so it doesn’t matter who the so called “leader” is just so long as he or she is willing and able to perform the task. The business adoption of the industrial-age hierarchy has been in place for far too long. It’s time to adapt.
Source: Forbes / Jeff Boss