In a perfectly predictable world, what’s the best way of organising a business? My guess is that it would be run like a perfect machine. Or like a big, monolithic computer. Programmed in best in class business processes. In a world with no surprises, you could build the perfect machine, program it perfectly by complex business processes, hire only the ‘resources’ that fit perfectly into those existing processes, and hone the whole organisation to deliver the ideal input/output ratio.
In fact, this is the way most businesses are set up. At least it’s the target state of most traditional companies. This is because the world used to be much more predictable and therefore better suited to such ‘Tayloristic’ models. The underlying goal was to distribute known packages of work in the most efficient manner. Today, however, things are increasingly unpredictable and fast. And this has some fundamental impacts. In such an environment, it’s impossible to plan the perfect organisational machine.
So, rather than planning for efficiency, forward-looking businesses are rebuilding their organisational structures around agility, robustness and innovation. And as businesses adapt to this new normal, the top-down management structures of old are coming under pressure. It’s easy to see why: the centralised decision-making, business siloes and organisational hierarchies of old put barriers in the way of adaptable operations.
Organising around adaptability
What does the future-fit organisation look like? For me, the answer’s simple: businesses need to put in place a structure which gives their people the freedom to act autonomously and quickly. It’s a simple idea, but one which demands profound change.
The first step is to enable employees to accept ownership over things, again. Interestingly enough many engaged leaders are caught by surprise, how difficult this is for many of their employees. Many experiences and traditional ‘tayloristic’ principles have to be ‘unlearned’ to accept ownership. Decision ownership has to be pushed out to every single employee and allows to think and decide for themselves. Step two goes further; creating an organisation in which employees are encouraged to seek out the most important and immediate challenges for the company, and to solve them.
At Siemens, we call this ‘ownership culture’: employees are empowered to make decisions for themselves and proactively drive change. We know that we can’t “switch it on” from one day to the other. But we implement it as an increasingly fundamental guiding principle across the company. The model is like that used in Open Source software development, where developers work in loosely organised networks to solve challenges. And it’s an approach makes perfect sense in a wider business context; after all, who’s better placed to understand how to improve the business and adapt to change than the people on the front line?
Here, the role of the manager changes. Rather than telling employees what they should work on, managers act as coach and guide their teams through their work. Their role is to ask those important ‘why’ questions to help employees stay on track. It’s an incredibly rewarding role and one that we know managers embrace once they’ve made the initial adjustment from linear management processes.
At Siemens, we’ve gone further and encouraged self-organised, bottom-up communities to flourish. These are entirely created and run by employees, with absolutely no functional management oversight. Indeed, they spring up in response to challenges that are often not even on managements’ radar and earn their legitimacy through their value-creation, purpose and passion of the employees that participate in them. There is no filtering process for the best initiatives, but it is evolutionary and the best will survive.
One such initiative is Grow2Glow (G2G). The aim of G2G at Siemens is to help women unlock their potential through coaching and find the inner strength to strike out for new horizons. The programme helps match trained coaches within the Siemens family with women who request coaching. Today, some 140 qualified coaches across all areas and disciplines respond to the needs throughout the company. The role of management in this success has been limited: all we’ve done is give the network the space it needed to grow.
I still rememeber the initial days when it was not mere than the initial idea of some engaged people, who wrer not beeing completely sure whether they’d be ‘allowed’ to start this at that time. Absolutely amazing what it has grown into in less than 2 years, globally.
Another great example of the power of self-guiding networks can be seen in the development of some of our most visible internal tools at Siemens. One of the tools was intended to be a simple way of showing employees our organisational structure. Traditionally, we would have briefed a group of designers to build it based on our specification. Instead we opened the project up to our employees and told them to create the solution they wanted. As a result, we now benefit from a far more user-centric AND feature-rich tool than everything we would have imagined. And it’s not finished: through our social page employees are still contributing new ideas to make the tool ever-more relevant and useful for them — at an amazing speed!
Unlearning the past
As professionals, we’re taught to be efficient. To work only on the jobs we’ve been tasked with. To play our roles as cogs in a well-defined machine. As managers our task was to program this ‘monolithic computer’ with best in class business processes. Ideally with business processes that treat people as anonymous resources rather than individuals. But this approach is no longer fit-for-purpose. Instead, as employees we must take ownership of our work and focus change and innovation on those areas where we know it needs to be focused. And as managers, we must give employees the space and freedom to innovate while providing coaching and support to ensure their innovations thrive. We must, in short, unlearn Tayloristic approaches and embrace flatter and more fluid organisational structures. This is not easy, especially for people who are long trained in such an environment. But the result will speak for itself: even more rewarding careers and better business outcomes.
By Robert Neuhauser, EVP and Global Head of Siemens People and Leadership
The agile workplace is becoming increasingly common.
In a McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 people across company sizes, functional specialties, industries, regions, and tenures, 37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations.
The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands. Indeed, more than 80 percent of respondents in agile units report that overall performance increased moderately or significantly since their transformations began.
These small teams, often called “squads,” have a great deal of autonomy. Typically composed of eight to ten individuals, they have end-to-end accountability for specific outcomes and make their own decisions about how to achieve their goals. This raises an obvious and seemingly mystifying question for people who have worked in more traditional, hierarchical companies: Who manages in an agile organization? And what exactly does an agile manager do?
Lay of the land
The answers become clear once you understand that the typical agile company employs a dynamic matrix structure with two types of reporting lines: a capability line and a value-creation line.
Nearly all employees have both a functional reporting line, which is their long-term home in the company, and a value-creation reporting line, which sets the objectives and business needs they take on in squads.In agile parlance, the capability reporting lines are often called “chapters” and are similar in some ways to functions in traditional organizations (you might have a “web developers” chapter, say, or a “research” chapter).
Each chapter is responsible for building a capability: hiring, firing, and developing talent; shepherding people along their career paths; evaluating and promoting people; and building standard tools, methods, and ways of working. The chapters also must deploy their talented people to the appropriate squads, based on their expertise and demonstrated competence. In essence, chapters are responsible for the “how” of a company’s work.
However, once talent is deployed to an agile team, the chapters do not tell people what to work on, nor do they set priorities, assign work or tasks, or supervise the day-to-day.The value-creation reporting lines are often called “tribes.” They focus on making money and delivering value to customers (you might have a “mortgage services” tribe or a “mobile products” tribe).
Tribes are similar to business units or product lines in traditional organizations. Tribes essentially “rent” most of their resources from the chapters. If chapters are responsible for the “how,” tribes are responsible for the “what.” They set priorities and objectives and provide marching orders to the functional resources deployed to them.
In this world, the work of a traditional midlevel manager is reallocated to three different roles: the chapter leader, the tribe leader, and the squad leader. Let’s examine the responsibilities of each and the challenges they pose for traditional managers looking to become agile managers.
The chapter leader
Every functional reporting line has a leader. This chapter leader must build up the right capabilities and people, equip them with the skills, tools, and standard approaches to deliver functional excellence, and ensure that they are deployed to value-creation opportunities—sometimes in long-term roles supporting the business, but more often to the small, independent squads.
The chapter leader must evaluate, promote, coach, and develop his or her people, but without traditional direct oversight. Chapter leaders are not involved in the day-to-day work of squads; they don’t check on or approve the work of their chapter members, and they certainly don’t micromanage or provide daily oversight. Instead, regular feedback from tribe leaders, team members, and other colleagues inform their evaluations and the kind of coaching they provide. Since they’re not providing direct oversight, their span of control can expand greatly, a fact that can eliminate several layers of management. In fact, chapter leaders often free up enough time to tackle “real work” on business opportunities as well.The most difficult challenges facing new chapter leaders are letting go of the day-to-day focus, and shifting attention to building the right capabilities and helping match talent to the right roles and value-creation opportunities.
Traditional managers are accustomed to closer oversight of their people. But if they can let go, they will find themselves in jobs that call on more of their leadership and creative talents. Not only can they join squads occasionally, but they can optimize their chapter-leader role in interesting ways. For example, if a company reconfigures squads frequently, reallocating talent to different roles or teams, the chapter leader might create and manage a backlog of “nice to have” functional work that his talent can help with in between their deployments.
The tribe leader
Since these value-creation leaders borrow or rent most of their resources from the chapters, they no longer bear the burden of building up their own functional capabilities. Instead, tribe leaders act as true general managers, mini-CEOs focused on value creation, growth, and serving customers.
They must develop the right strategies and tactics to deliver desired business outcomes and to determine what work needs to get done, how much to invest in which efforts, and how to prioritize opportunities. They work with chapter leaders to match the right people to the right squads.
Like chapter leaders, tribe leaders manage less and lead more. Since they have profit-and-loss accountability, they must develop a strategic perspective on their business and their customers, a cross-functional view of the core capabilities of the broader organization (so they can efficiently secure the resources they need from chapters), and an integrated perspective of the company as a whole and how their part of the business fits in with the larger enterprise.
Those who succeed will develop more of a general-manager skill set and an enterprise mind-set that can break down silos, enable collaboration across organizational boundaries, and empower product owners to provide day-to-day guidance on objectives, priorities, and tasks.
The most difficult challenges for traditional managers tackling the tribe-leader role are letting go of the need to fully “own” all the people working for them, as well as shifting attention from micromanaging the day-to-day work to developing the right business strategies, setting the right objectives and priorities, and making the right business decisions.
Tribe leaders must also wrestle with their reliance on getting their talent from chapters. They must resist the urge to build their own set of resources and create shadow functions so they never lack what they need when they need it. That end-around scuttles the agile matrix, which relies on healthy tensions and constructive conflict to get the right capabilities to the right opportunities at the right time.
The squad leader
Team leaders, or “squad” leaders, serve a crucial purpose in the agile matrix. They aren’t the “boss” of the people on their team. They help plan and orchestrate execution of the work, and they strive to build a cohesive team.
They also provide inspiration, coaching, and feedback to team members, report back on progress to tribe leaders, and give input on people development and performance to relevant chapter leaders.
Think of squad leaders as individual contributors who have developed leadership skills or at least developed an interest in learning these skills. The squad-leader role can be more or less formal and can even change over time depending on what the team is working on.
Once again, the challenge for someone from a more traditional company is to lead without exerting onerous control. But the rewards can be great. Some squad leaders will grow into tribe leaders, while others will continue as individual contributors with the additional skill of agile leadership.
Something old, something new
The idea of autonomous teams is not new; it’s been around for decades. For instance, in the quality movement that took hold in manufacturing and continuous improvement 50 years ago, quality circles and high-performance work systems often relied on an autonomous self-managed team with an informal team leader who was not technically a boss. More recently, companies such as WL Gore (in materials science) and Haier (the Chinese appliance manufacturer) have emphasized the empowerment of small teams, even if they don’t use the language we associate with agility—or focus those teams on software development, where agile has made some of its most prominent marks.
The agile revolution
Conceiving of the organization as an organism rather than a machine lies at the heart of the gathering trend toward more agile companies. But what does this look like? In a collaborative effort comprising a series of agile “sprints,” 50 McKinsey experts from the firm’s digital, operations, marketing, and organization practices recently spelled out the nature of these changes—both the overall paradigm shift, as well as five critical shifts that “traditional” organizations must encourage in the mind-sets of their people.
The squad leader is now a part of an agile matrix, where the value-creation, or tribe, leaders provide constant direction and prioritization around where the value is, and the capability, or chapter, leaders focus on ensuring deep functional expertise, common tools and competencies, and economies of scale and skill.
If these leaders can become effective, non-intrusive managers, the agile company will enjoy the best of both worlds: the benefits of size and scale typically realized in large organizations, as well as the benefits of speed and nimbleness often associated with small entrepreneurial start-ups.
About the author(s)Aaron De Smet is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Houston office.
Aug 1, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.
Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra
Executives put out the mandate: We need to be more innovative. We want great ideas. Innovation needs to be part of our core principles and everyday practice.
But even when great solutions are introduced to the organization, many remain best-kept secrets, failing to ever reach scale. More often than not, the problem is that the stakeholders who will make or break the idea’s execution aren’t ready, willing and able to support its success. They haven’t bought in to the change.
Here are four ways you can use design thinking as a powerful tool for change:
1. Involving Stakeholders
As great change leaders know, involvement creates ownership. Stakeholders who might otherwise block efforts become keener to support ideas that they have had an opportunity to influence. Even for stakeholders that would likely comply with a mandated change, involvement enhances their commitment to the success of the overall initiative.
Design thinking not only bakes involvement into the process by emphasizing the importance of collaboration and multiple perspectives, it also builds human connections that go deeper. You’re not just creating ownership, you’re creating two-way empathy, which helps people make better decisions.
Think strategically about who might resist your ultimate solution or who might be negatively affected by it, and find ways to involve those people in the process.
2. Reconnecting with Purpose
Organizations often struggle with mundane issues that never seem to get fully resolved. For example, a common one is getting people to submit their expenses in a timely manner. Here, too, design thinking, applied with intention, can be a great tool for changing the mindset behind the problem to help you reach a more effective outcome.
Design thinking looks at issues from a human-centered point of view, first empathizing with users and then building solutions that make their lives better. So you might ask, “How can we help people get their expenses in on time? What are they dealing with, and what would make it easier for them?”
By shifting your view to see this as an opportunity to help people, not impose process and rules on them, design thinking changes your perspective to something more meaningful. The attitudes became empathetic instead of oppositional. There is tremendous satisfaction created when the output of your work visibly improves the lives of others. When leading change, helping stakeholders connect to the purpose of their work can accelerate buy-in to a new way of doing things.
Throughout the process, find ways to share user stories, including challenges, opportunities and the impact of work, to help stakeholders reconnect to the organization’s work and how it genuinely helps users.
3. Generating Evidence
It happens all the time: people hear an idea, and they immediately say it won’t work. Without evidence, it won’t be easy to convince them otherwise. Design thinking’s process of quickly building and iterating on solutions is valuable for generating the evidence necessary to persuade leaders to fund and support a fledgling idea. Similar evidence should be used with other critical stakeholders as well.
Some evidence (metrics and validation data) will appeal to the head, but it’s more likely that early evidence (in the form of user stories) will appeal to the heart. And when a customer tells you the idea changed their life, that’s a pretty powerful argument for getting on board.
Collect data and identify various vehicles for sharing the material with stakeholder audiences. By including evidence in internal company presentations, newsletters and management meetings, you can continuously and powerfully establish the case for change.
4. Discovering Stakeholder Interests
If you don’t know what the stakeholders really care about, you could be spending your time and energy worrying about inconsequential factors—or overlooking critical ones. As a design team prototypes ideas and runs experiments, it learns about the opportunities for and barriers to ultimate success. As specific stakeholders and stakeholder groups come into contact with a nascent idea, their reactions speak to their interests.
Maybe that presumed barrier isn’t one after all, but you might discover another unanticipated obstacle that could derail success entirely. From a change management perspective, understanding and respecting these interests can help minimize resistance during implementation.
Leverage learning about stakeholder interests to both enhance the design of the solution and the design of the intervention that introduces the solution to the organization.
If you’re going to implement an innovative solution, you’re going to create change. There’s no getting around it. But in too many cases, leaders limit their focus to an either/or proposition: innovation or change.
Don’t let that revolutionary idea languish in a dusty corner (or get brought to life by someone else). Design Thinking provides tools and methods to help lead change more effectively as well and, as a result, achieve the desired impact from our innovation projects. We just have to apply it with purpose and intention.
Jul 3, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.
By Chuck Leddy
Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra
Change is about the complex interactions between people, processes and systems — and the people component of that “change triangle” is often the most challenging and the most important.
A great Harvard Business Review article, HR Can’t Change Company Culture by Itself, makes the point in its title, explaining: “True culture change means altering the way the organization lives and breathes. It shapes the way people make decisions, get their work done, what they prioritize, and how they interact with colleagues, clients and customers.”
The way your people think about change is a big part of your culture, but everyone from the top down must be in the business of managing change. The capacity to change in order to meet ever-evolving market and technological needs is where competitive advantage lives today, both for organizations and for talent. So the obvious question suggests itself: Who “owns” organizational change?
All Departments Must Collaboratively Drive Change
Organizational change is a business imperative that can be led from the top, but effective change cannot be imposed from the top. It only happens when everyone (all employees in each department/functional area) understands the reasons for the change, believes in its necessity and modifies their behaviors to sustain the new way of doing things. This process needs to happen both in the minds of people and across the entire organization.
As organizations analyze and meet their talent needs, for instance, adopting a more blended approach, HR will increasingly become a strategic partner with financial, IT, legal and procurement leaders. An Ernst & Young report makes this strategic partnership clear: HR, finance, IT and procurement leaders will each, “Bring insight and analysis…in a way that helps the business to strike the right balance between building, buying and deploying talent to support the business strategy.”
HR must be involved but so must other business areas such as finance, procurement, IT/technology, operations, legal and sales. When it comes to change, culture matters, but so do financial incentives, leadership communication, investments in talent and systems, skills development/training and more.
The Example of HP: IT, HR & Procurement Collaborate to Transform Global Sales
Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report offers a fine example of interdepartmental collaboration to drive business change. HP, the California-based technology company, drove change by reinventing its sales culture and fostering a workplace ecosystem that supports high-performing sales behaviors for its 6,500 global sales employees.
HP took a multidisciplinary and systematic approach, which involved several areas of the business beyond just sales, including technology, HR, procurement, legal, and finance and using its own data to assess sales behaviors for the entire organization. What HP actions led to sales? What actions had the most impact on what customers, and why? Could these actions be scaled across the global sales team? By analyzing the complex intersection of sales behaviors, activities, competencies, compensation and outcomes, HP gained actionable insights that led to a more effective sales team.
As Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report explains, “The findings from this multifaceted analysis has enabled HP’s top sales leaders to make ‘culture commitments’ at their global sales meeting in an effort to begin to transform the company’s sales culture.” HP is doing more of what works and less of what isn’t.
Workforce Management and the Blended Future: How HR Works with Procurement
The future of work will be a blending of full-time employees with on-demand external talent that companies can access on an as-needed basis using digital platforms. Easy access to on-demand talent allows organizations to remain agile as they meet their fast-evolving talent and business needs.
As author and keynote speaker Jacob Morgan explains, “The gig economy has transformed into highly adopted technology-based human capital solutions that connect nimble and innovative enterprises to a network of independent business professionals. Leveraging the gig economy gives businesses a chance to access a broader talent pool than with a traditional workforce model.” What’s more is that they can do it in a cost-effective and timely way.
Clearly, HR needs to play a big role in talent acquisition, but they can’t do it alone. Procurement, for instance, will also be a crucial component in any strategic partnership to acquire talent. While HR and the business identify specific talent needs they wish to bring in, procurement adds business value by understanding how to buy solutions (whether it’s talent platforms or accessing the talent itself) that contain costs and optimize efficiency.
Sourcing talent and creating the capacity to do so takes an interdepartmental, cross-functional approach. As individual business areas identify their on-demand talent needs, HR should be working with IT, procurement, finance, legal and other business functions to meet those ongoing talent needs.
The Need to Experiment and Learn
Agility is largely about the ability to learn and apply lessons moving forward. The goal of organizations should be to learn fast and in a way that doesn’t break the bank. An obvious course might be to set up pilot projects that involve a blended workforce. How will you find the on-demand talent you need? How will you manage and blend this talent? How will you integrate it into your overall culture and project needs? Learning starts with good questions like these, and then implementation of the experiments that begin to offer feedback and answers. This feedback supports continuous learning.
Agility is a mindset that must be supported, as change must be supported, by people, processes and systems acting together. Silos are anathema to building agility, not just departmental silos. The better the business areas coordinate their functions as they pursue change, the more agile the organization becomes.
In today’s business landscape of uncertainty, volatility and constant competitive pressures, readiness for organizational change is essential. If you’re slow and flat-footed, you’re already facing huge disadvantages against nimbler, more adaptable rivals. Successful organizations are ones that can learn, work in agile ways and access and leverage talent to meet ever-evolving market needs.