I’ve written some about our experience working in Communist countries in the 70’s and 80’s. After 25 years, the recent Olympics gave another view of how things work in countries with a strong “hierarchy.” Fifty-one billion dollars can get the job (almost) done in seven years, yet the “wooden” shower doors lock and must be busted out of by the athletes.
When a person sets up an organization, they need to consider it’s structure and social characteristics. As you’ve seen from my blog, the trend today is away from hierarchy to a more “collegial” approach, even within hierarchical systems. And the Bible also identifies dangers of creating an organization that functions with a hierarchical system.
In this article in Forbes magazine (first printed in Gary Hamel’s M-Prize site for unlocking human potential) written by Jacob Morgan, we see several more principles about building an organization that motivates and unleashes its workers.
How To Build A Boundary-less Organization
The first and most important truth any leader must understand is that the human beings who work inside every kind of organization possess unlimited potential. They have the ability to solve any problem and the adaptability to respond to unforeseen circumstances. It may be the most overworked truism in the business world, but employees are indeed the most valuable resource and asset that any company has.
The problem: most organizations today are unable to tap into that limitless human potential because of a series of self-imposed boundaries. Unlocking this potential means challenging the many assumptions that we have about work today:
- the incontestability of hierarchy,
- the importance of putting in time in the office,
- semi-annual employee reviews,
- valuing the voice of the customer but not of the employee, and
- the restriction of vital information to preserve rank.
Organizations and their leaders must strive to break three common boundaries in order to unleash all of the talent and contribution lying in wait.
The first is role-based: communication and collaboration is restricted by seniority level. How could a lowly entry-level employee possibly engage with a senior manager or worse… an executive!
The second type of boundary is around departments and function. Marketing folks stick with their peers in marketing, sales with sales, product development with product development and information and potential opportunities for innovation remain stuck within silos.
The third most common type of boundary is geographic—employees in one office or location simply don’t “see” their peers in another.
Escaping these persistent and pernicious boundaries to communication, contribution and collaboration requires three key shifts in an organization. (stay tuned)
(Jacob Morgan is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Social and Collaborative Tools (McGraw Hill).