The connected, digital world is changing the way we work, challenging our ideas of leadership, executive capability and the ways in which we organise ourselves. Most people want to do a good job but find themselves locked in spirals of meetings, complex matrices and told to behave in particular ways that conspire to frustrate their ability to deliver their best.
Many of the ideas about capability, hierarchy and organisation structure came from a previous era of industrial manufacture, where heavy industry dominated and products were more ‘physical’, competing in welldefined markets. This led us to hard-wired hierarchical structures and fixed process maps and whilst we always talked about good leadership we knew we could always rely on our positional power to get stuff done.
But not anymore. We cannot predict even the near future with certainty, so structuring our businesses on the assumption that we can, leads to rigidity and inflexibility in an environment when only the agile, the most ‘effective’ will survive. And often it can feel like a crisis. For example, the start-up company gets too big to work in an informal way and puts in systems and procedures that make it bureaucratic, slower and less agile. As businesses become larger, the drive for efficiency demands the savings promised by shared services but they can become remote and too far away from the customer, risking loss of competitiveness to more nimble and agile competitors.
The effective organisation however adapts and understands the consequences of those actions.
At OE Cam, we believe that organisation effectiveness combines the ‘hard’ and the ‘soft’. As the model right shows, it’s about balancing the tangible and rational with the behavioural and emotional.
Our experience has taught us to start from the outside-in, to truly understand the context of your organisation: the market conditions and its market position; its past experience and the stage in its organisational life-cycle; and its current strategy.
Nowadays, work gets done through connecting many parts of the world with many different partners in a flexible and agile supply chain. Decision-making is now more often between partners with differing powers and motivations than between superiors and subordinates, so the role of leadership is to engage and enable rather than to tell and decide. The competencies we need in our leaders have changed alongside with the organisational forms they sit within. And to optimise our supply chains, as partnerships and joint-ventures become more commonplace, we need leaders to be as concerned about relationships between organisations as relationships within them.
But these features alone are not enough. We need to build trust and what we call ‘social capital’ between the people in the organisation. We may call this culture, shared values or comraderie, but the more we can build this social capital, the less we need to rely on structure and specification to get stuff done. Too often we get stuck at conscious competence and don’t move to the unconscious competence that makes the best companies fly.
So what do we mean by organisation effectiveness?
At its core, it’s having a shared purpose with a set of individual behaviours that work together to achieve that purpose. Over time, trust builds up and creates what we call social capital, a culture, an environment in which performance and co-operation is encouraged. We work with two sets of dimensions – the rational and the behavioural. Central to the behavioural and the emotional is leadership and how we motivate our teams to deliver the purpose.
Organisation effectiveness combines the hard and the soft. A shared sense of purpose and direction coupled with the individual behaviours to make it a reality. In between, the structure is configured to enable the capable to flourish, the right talent is developed, relationships and networks strengthened and values embedded. In short, tomorrow’s connected organisation.”
Yet our people also need a sense of purpose and identity. They need to be able to make sense of what may, to some, look like chaos. In part, the feeling of chaos comes from the fact that organisations are increasingly affected by the many moving parts outside of the organisation that are constantly changing and adapting – which in turn requires your organisation to adapt and respond.
Within organisations, we need to be capable of engaging and motivating employees who increasingly have a stronger sense of personal rather than corporate identity, and who inter-connect to the outside world through the growing power of social media. This all creates pressures and tensions in our organisations between rigidity created by too much prescription, specification and process in how it is structured, and incoherence through too much empowerment in how roles are designed.
We need our people to exercise judgment rather than box-ticking, but how then do we achieve product or service compliance? New business models are emerging that go some way towards resolving these tensions, but without the right capability and quality relationships, little change in how people think, feel and act, will be sustained.
We need to make it easier for people to give of their best, collaborate with others through integrating job designs, organisational forms with the right individual and team capability and commitment.
This is what OE Cam can help you with. We start with understanding where your business adds value in its market; we then build the organisation from the outside-in starting from its customers and partners and ensuring how best to connect and work. From this, we can define the optimum organisation form, and develop your leaders to get the best out of it.