#LEADERSHIP_ ESSENTIALS: No.3 – Goodbye hammer!

Farewell to the hammer or the evolution towards a future-fit company!

Observing that the disruptive, non-linear changes and complex challenges, that organizations and their employees face today, continue to be tackled with the same “old” organizational development methods, one recalls the aphorism “who only has a hammer as a tool, sees a nail in every problem”.

Although our environment is becoming increasingly more complex, we try to solve most problems with the familiar hammer (hierarchies, command and control, etc.). We develop a lot of activity (operational hustle and bustle) instead of questioning who we are and wanting to be (purpose & meaning!), and how we successfully strive for “real work” instead of “new work” only. What we need is an expansion of our thinking and related to that a change of our mindset.

In other words, the “nails” of today require a new type of organizational development:

  • On the one hand, it takes courage not to close our eyes to this complexity any more, but to find out what our organization REALLY needs in order to successfully and adapt to the changed environmental conditions and develop or keep the capability to navigate in this world.
  • On the other hand, we also need to give up the image of this one HEROIC “leader” at the top of our org charts and instead have a meaningful conversation about power and how power needs to shift, rather than “bullshitting” about empowerment.
  • This means a move towards an ever more dynamic network, a true “people intelligent enterprise” in which employees organize (and re-organize) around projects, adapt their role(s) accordingly and strive for personal development.
  • It needs a shift towards more decentralization and federalism: organizations function systemically as living and learning systems. Teams in this system work like cells in an organism, each cell with its own purpose and its own contributors.
  • There is complete transparency on the “jobs to be done”, assignments, projects etc. so that cells can be “staffed” more intelligently and complementarily and by that deliver significantly more impact than people could individually or in other more random constellations.
  • Gradually, the org chart turns into a talent marketplace. Hierarchies still emerge, but they are hierarchies based on capabilities, influence, reputation, and the work itself. They are more fluid, dynamic and held lightly.
  • The result is an a more self-organized company that quickly adjusts and reshapes to respond to rapidly changing business needs while providing the culture and environment in which individuals can thrive, live up to their passions and purpose, and perform at their best.
  • What is however often neglected in such transformation processes – as it is more complex and messier than just shifting organizational structures or creating new roles – is the fact that for all involved parties, this means a substantial investment in the inner work piece, both on the individual and on the collective level.
  • Every reduction in external structures and processes must necessarily be accompanied by an inner transformation – which in essence is the work around needs, values, attitudes and emotions.

I truly believe that the only way to successfully unlearn our old “hierarchical thinking” is to break away from old patterns, schemes and ways of thinking, and in making and curating new experiences that show better results. The safety, clarity and orientation that was formerly provided by these more rigid organizational frameworks, org charts and formal hierarchies, need to be compensated for by an intentional investment in transparency, trust, empathy and appreciation. Only then, can we take individuals and teams on a journey towards “real work” in more self-organized settings.

#UnlearningHierarchy #FutureFitOrganizations #RealWorkvsNewWork