Speed, Trust and Infrastructure
Increasing complexity and speed of change force companies to find new ways to compete. To survive and thrive in such volatile business environments, companies around the world strive to become more agile, resilient and responsive. This can only happen if each player in the organisation, regardless of position or specific area of responsibility, has the autonomy and freedom to swiftly take intelligent local decisions and initiatives. This requires a culture based on collaboration and mutual trust and a widely shared view of strategic challenges, as well as short term business priorities.
So, is this a pipe dream or a realistic scenario? Our experience is unambiguous. This is clearly within reach for most companies! Most companies have huge unutilised potentials of human resources. Most modern people are just waiting for a chance to step forth and take on more responsibility, but mainstream managerial habits and control systems tend to get in the way. When people are invited to help co-navigate their company, when you treat people as ‘adult partners’, most of them will jump at the opportunity. Trust is at the heart of the matter, but trust and collaboration can only grow strong if you have healthy, supportive infrastructures in place.
We are all surrounded and supported by infrastructures every day, they are there to make life easier for all of us. Electricity, water, internet, roads, air traffic and so on. These are the ‘taken for granted’ foundations of modern life. They provide us, as individuals, with unprecedented freedom and flexibility. We are all free to use them for our own benefit, as long as we stay within basic rules and regulations. For the most part these infrastructures work fairly well, but when they break down things come to a halt, resulting in an uproar of protests and complaints.
Infrastructures in companies are an altogether different story – broken and counterproductive infrastructures inside companies are the norm, rather than the exception! Companies tend to succeed despite them, rather than because of them. Anyone who has ever worked in a fairly big company can share plenty of frustrating stories about what life is like inside such counterproductive infrastructures. Instead of freeing you up to get your job done, they put severe limits on your freedom to take action when needed. People will share stories about simple decisions that get caught up in a bureaucratic maze. They sigh and explain how this makes their company slow and sluggish instead of flexible and agile. These are the well-known downsides of traditional, overgrown command & control systems. They represent an incredible waste of human intelligence, creativity and people’s natural desire to make things work. These unhealthy infrastructures promote distrust, silo thinking, conflict ridden workflows, disillusioned co-workers, frustrated managers and unhappy customers.
In a series of articles, we will examine these problems and describe some of the infrastructures necessary to run a modern company. They all have in common that they are aimed the ‘sleeping human assets’ that, when released, can make a company more agile, resilient and competitive.
Infrastructures for Strategic Navigation.
How do you translate boardroom ‘business plan language’ into a tailor-made strategic message that can reach through to everyone in the company? How do you invite everyone’s help to co-manage the company in a complex, fast changing world? What does it take to have everyone wholeheartedly put their shoulder to the wheel.
Infrastructures for Frontline Teamwork.
How do you make sure the energy stays high in each and every team? How do you make sure the combined intelligence of the whole team comes into play? How do you make it possible for teams to learn, evolve and build the skills they need to become a high performing teams? How do you make sure they can share what they learn with the whole company?
Infrastructures for Complex Workflows.
How do you set up structures for the on-going exchange of ‘navigation signals’ in complex workflows? How do you build a code of conduct based on respect and diplomacy? How do you enable people to resolve issues in the workflow, quickly and efficiently, without pushing them up through the hierarchies?
Infrastructures for Dynamic Leadership
How do you take decentralisation to the next level? How can you better distribute formal authority and power, making it possible for co-workers all around the company to take most of the local decisions and make things happen with speed and precision? How do you build the necessary mutual trust between management and co-workers to make this work?
To follow this series of articles you can join us at Integ Partner’s LinkedIn where they will be posted.
If you believe you have ‘sleeping assets’ in this area, you may want to read the other articles in this series:
- Speed, Trust and Infrastructure
- Infrastructures for Strategic Navigation
- Infrastructures for Frontline Teams
- Infrastructures for Complex Workflows
- Infrastructures for Dynamic Leadership
- Infrastructure for Self-Organisation