The QWERTY Complex: Un-jamming our organizations to thrive through change
Today, we are featuring a guest post from Sara Roberts, President and CEO of Roberts Golden Consulting, Inc. She is known for her expertise in large-scale transformation, particularly in driving culture change for enterprise innovation and collaboration, and has provided strategic guidance to dozens of the world’s top global companies over the past 15 years.
Navigating in today’s workplace can be disorienting. It seems that the minute we reorganize, restructure, merge, shift… we need to do it yet again to keep up with new demands. We lament, when are things ever going to be normal again? Things are changing so fast. We can’t possibly keep up!
In our organizations, we often point to ‘agility’ as critical to our success – yet the ironic part is that our organizations are still trying to command and control our way into being more nimble.
What exactly is going on? For starters, witness the last twenty years. There’s been an explosion of vastly more information, globalization resulting in larger and farther-flung teams and, not to mention, greater competition coming from unexpected and untraditional sources. Think: NetFlix and how Blockbuster didn’t see it coming. There has been a serious tectonic shift and our companies are at the epicenter.
In our organizations, we often point to ‘agility’ as critical to our success – yet the ironic part is that our organizations are still trying to command and control our way into being more nimble. Often times we don’t fully realize that these old hierarchical structures, we’re holding steadfastly to, are unable to process information quickly enough to make the necessary day-to-day business decisions. We think we can simply optimize to do it better, faster and cheaper but in reality, we need a transformation in our workplaces.
As I was writing this last paragraph, it made me think of a cognitive behavioral theory I recently read about, called “path dependence.” This term refers to the notion that “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.” For instance, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so the manufacturers designed a keyboard that would slow typists. We no longer have typewriters, but we are stuck with the letter arrangements of the qwerty keyboard.
Let’s ask ourselves: do we really want to be stuck with qwerty organizations?
I believe the time has come for organizations to truly rethink the way they organize and get work done. I’ve seen first-hand evidence of it consulting with numerous Fortune 250 and Global 1000 clients. We can’t “manage” change anymore – we’ve got to proactively drive it and live it. There’s a need to shift the role of leadership, decentralize decisions and equip every single one of our organization’s people to be the everyday change leaders that are required for success in this new era.
This June at Enterprise 2.0, I’ll be assisting in the facilitation of a workshop on Organization Next and also, presenting a keynote titled “The Ex-CXO: why your employees will be running your enterprise in 5 years and why you should let them” both which speak to this topic.
In the workshop, we’ll be discussing concrete ways organizations can start to put these new capabilities in place and adopt new ways of working that are more employee-driven, collaborative and less reliant on top-down management direction.
One of the questions we’ll discuss is just exactly how can companies become agile? We’ll explore how the hierarchy needs to give way to self-organization and we move to more bottom-up and side to side. This means that instead of control and decisions coming from the top, individual teams must be empowered to execute. However, this does not mean chaos and disorganization. And, it does not mean a complete lack of planning. It’s about setting goals globally but enabling the execution locally. Each team within the company will need to have the tools, the motivation, and the mandate to execute at its best.
Why will this be critical? I think Rupert Murdoch said it best, “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
With my two esteemed co-facilitators, Mike Gotta and Daniel Rasmus, as well as a panel of five experts from Fortune 100 companies and the U.S. government, I think it will be a fantastic event and undoubtedly will leave everyone in the room thinking about what’s in store for our companies and how to lead the charge.
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