The author of a Forbes article, and one time a Navy Seal, describes how hierarchy can get in the way of doing what needs to be done as he talks about Chaos, Leadership and Innovation.
In an echo of my earlier Death by Hierarchy blog, Forbes takes its own spin on why Hierarchy is past its sell-by date.
Let’s take a few of the points he raises; I put my own spin on these.
Don’t Separate Doers from Thinkers
The people who do the work need to understand how to make local adaptations to their immediate context if there is any degree of variability. The ‘thinkers’ need to know what is happening so they can give appropriate advice. Where possible the doer should also be a thinker, though few can think of everything so collaboration of some sort is likely to be needed.
Set the Boundaries
Employees need to know what the objectives are, why they are important, and what deadlines apply. So there might be a few other criteria that define what a successful outcome means, but once these are known, anything that would meet the criteria is fair game.
Get rid of Rank
Character and competence are what matter, not tenure or pay grade. Everyone knows something that can be put toward the solution; a good idea should not be rejected because it comes from a junior person
Shake it up
Change the old, comfortable routines occasionally, this gives opportunities for new insights and new practices to emerge. What’s good of the old will come back; you won’t need to worry about that.
Trim the processes
If you have a rulebook that covers absolutely every eventuality, people will be spending too much time consulting the rulebook and no time on thinking about what is needed and how best to respond. Rulebooks stop people from thinking. Trim it to the essence of what people need to know.
An excerpt from the article: “There were times … where we conducted missions without any plan. Instead, we just arrived on target to adapt… 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 author’s final comment resonates particularly with me; it doesn’t matter who is called “leader” provided he or she is willing and able to perform the task. This is possibly something you have to experience for yourselves in a good self-organizing team before you really grasp that it is possible; I hear so many people who cannot understand that a team might not need a boss.
Read The Forbes Article for its author’s take on these topics.