Top performing companies recognize that successful innovation is inherently complex. No matter how much money a company invests, or how efficient it makes its internal processes, the companies that are the most successful at innovation are those that invest significant time, effort and money in people.
Over the years, I’ve read more than a few books, listened to audiotapes and CDs, watched videos and attended conferences where I’ve had the chance to consider viewpoints on what makes leaders excellent in their work. Leader media take up more than a few linear feet of shelving in bookstores and quite a bit of space on the Internet.
Roger Francis's insight:
Like this concept of "making" rather than just "doing".
From the time of Alexander the Great to the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, there was almost no increase in people’s productivity.
The speed a soldier in Alexander the Great’s army could travel was limited by the speed of the horse he rode or the beasts pulling his wagon; and weapons they used were all hand forged. The same was true for Napoleon’s troops 2,000 years later. But with the invention of the steam engine, things began to change. Since that time, the nominal annual rate of productivity improvement in developed economies has been between 0.5% and 2%. This is approximately the same natural improvement rate that is found in most traditionally run organizations.
But what if you could improve faster, at a rate that outpaced your competitors? And what if you could maintain this rate year-after-year? The result would be a considerable competitive advantage.
In order for companies to develop a culture of innovation, the people involved in innovation (from the practitioners to the executives to the broader employee base) must be able to communicate effectively about innovation — and they aren’t.
Over the last few months, I’ve written several posts under the banner – One Word. These have included, Vision (A three-part mini series), Data, Diversity and others. Today, let’s explore a word that is critical to our success… Hope. The ability to generate hope is one of the hallmarks of leadership. Napoleon said, “A leader » Read More
Control: It’s the essence of management. We’re trained to measure inputs, throughputs, and outputs in hopes of increasing efficiency and producing desired results. In a world of linear processes, such as in the factories of the Industrial Age, that made sense. But in today’s knowledge economy, where enterprises are complex, adaptive systems, it’s counterproductive.
The real problem is confusion between control and order. Control implies centralized control and hierarchical relationships. The person with control tells others what to do and whether they are successful or not. Order, on the other hand, emerges from self-organization. There may not be anyone telling others what to do, yet things get done—often with great efficiency and effectiveness. People know what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.
But how can this be true? Mustn’t an orchestra have a conductor? A dance troupe, a choreographer? A company, a CEO?
Not necessarily. Nature abounds with examples of what is known as swarm intelligence. Termites build intricate dwellings without the benefit of set of plans or engineers with advanced degrees. Birds migrate thousands of miles in formations where the lead position rotates to optimize their collective capacity. There are no marching orders or hierarchies dictating who leads. Massive flocks of starlings engage in intricate maneuvers known as murmuration with neither collisions nor confusion. There is order without overarching control. Indeed, our obsession with control helps explain why human-designed organizations fail to achieve such beautiful synchronicity.
The basic strength of hierarchies is that if they are designed well -- the departments/silos make sense in light of your business strategy and your competition, there aren't too many levels, the rules that accompany the hierarchy are smart and sensible -- hierarchies can be an incredibly efficient and reliable way to get work done. In fact nobody has found a more efficient and reliable way.
The problem is that hierarchies change slowly to changing conditions, to new rapid-fire strategic challenges, to technological discontinuities. They're not agile, they can't jump to the left or to the right quickly. In today's world you have to be fast and agile, but you also have to be efficient and reliable.
So the problem is that a well-designed hierarchy is still needed but it's insufficient. You need two systems, one that can handle speed with agility, and one that gets the work done today with quality and efficiency. And the two have to work together hand in glove.
If you are an insulated leader, you are missing the big picture. As a result, you are making decisions based upon poor—sometimes misleading—information. In today’s climate, you cannot afford to misinterpret the variables that make up your opportunity for a winning equation. As such, you need to remain aware of the insulation effect, or R-value, of your team by watching for these clues:
Cries of "no more managers" and "end the hierarchy" are well-intentioned efforts to accelerate the ongoing paradigm shift in management, but they are counterproductive: all organizations are hierarchical and all have managers.
Holacracy. Results-Only Work Environments. These new, more flexible ways of working may be a step too far for many organizations. Still, greater employee freedom can create a better sense of “flow,” which enhances engagement, retention, and performance. This can be achieved by loosening your grip on work practices — but you don’t have to let go completely: remove obstacles, set boundaries and meaningful goals, then let work take its course.
The desire to do something unforgettable, exceptional and remarkable is the fire that burns in the head and hearts of leaders who strive to create a better future; a living, learning, evolving workplace where potential thrives and products and services create value for all constituents and the communities they serve.