Command and control is dead! Mix Mashup 2012

June 29, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   Comments Off on Command and control is dead! Mix Mashup 2012

Hierarchies are a shrine to precedence”… wow, what a comment… Gary Hamel clearly intended to leave no prisoners.

For those of you who haven’t heard, “command and control” is dead… or at least dying rapidly. Successive waves of technology are smashing down the traditional business hierarchies while digital natives chip-away the mortar from within… like it or not, change is afoot & its time to adapt or die.

Oh… so let me explain… last week I had the good fortune to travel to San Francisco for the MixMashup conference and it was amazing! (I also attended the GSummit that was equality earth shifting but MixMashup went earlier so lets talk about that first).

The Mix Mashup conference explored emerging leadership and organizational practices leveraged by today’s best performers. The speaker list was full of highly accomplished individuals, CEOs etc, from an array of organisations all of whom are turning the traditional management paradigm on its head.

While that last sentence might sound exaggerated, its not.

So the Mix Mashup team brought together an array of industry players to talk about the emerging management paradigm, what it means and what the benefits are in tackling it head on.

All of the presenters were high achievers sharing their latest learnings direct from the trenches. While some of the companies had evolved these habits, most were the result of a significant cultural transformation brought on by a need to address destructive shortcomings; as Bjarte Bogsenes said “as companies grow they become what they wanted to be… and stuff they don’t want to be”.

Now there were 20 to 30 brilliant speakers on the day but to detail them all in this blog would be hopelessly ambitious so here is a brief summary of some of the main points:

– Co-creation involves

  • Getting rid hierarchy
  • Promoting all ideas as equal
  • Moving away from leading people toward a sense of helping people

– Cultural

  • Make it fun: Its more fun to be a pirate than in the Navy
  • Build creative confidence in your team by using a series of short experiments with a high chance for success
  • Embrace the mess
  • Develop a culture of benevolent criticism so feedback can be delivered
  • People are naturally creative, helpful and seek growth and its managements role to provide the environment where this can happen.
  • Engage people through a personal dream project that they can choose and champion
  • Use 360 feedback surveys and publish all results
  • Meritocracy (rewards recognition etc) beats bureaucracy
  • When in doubt, default to open.

– Outline stepping stones rather than KPIs (KPIs are at best ridged lines in the sand that may or may not be relevant, also people ease off once KPIs have been met)
– Plan up to the 80% point then jump… in execution, action matters most

The one recurring theme across almost all of the speakers was the power of an acknowledged purpose to bring people together, gives direction and realizes value. The speakers referred to their organisation’s purpose as something ‘defined and active’ that was set as organization then anchored within each individual.

John MacKay illustrated its importance by saying, “ You’ve got to constantly reiterate your purpose… 50% of your team didn’t work here 5 years ago”.

In looking back, what really strikes me is that purpose seems to have profoundly changed the context of a vision & mission… that’s not to say that they’re now obsolete, rather it seems that purpose gives them a fluidity that makes them dynamic & relevant; as WL Gores CEO Terri Kelly illustrated, “you’ve got to go deeper into values, vision and mission with new starters to illustrate how they can champion success”.

Interestingly values have become so central to the emerging paradigm, they are the primary foundation of decentralized decision-making and leader selection. Ok, so this is not new either, but what’s shifted is that the technology now reveals when the walk, matches the talk.

Warren Buffet famously said “its only when the tide goes out that you discover whose been swimming naked”. Similarly, leaders in a collaborative enterprise are caught naked if they rely on position instead of influence.

This sets up an interesting precedence as career progression is then, by extension, more dependant on the average employee than the established management. Actually if anything is new under these rules it’s the importance of engaging the garden-variety employee. Innovation, collaboration and knowledge sharing are all dependant on their participation, but drawing-out participation amongst diverse personality types can be challenging.

Jim Lavoie CEO of Rite Solutions calls it “knowledge proctology”, and he builds exchange in the enterprise by giving people a sense of belonging and highlighting their points of commonality. On their first day each new employee is asked to fill in a “Birth Certificate” that details their personal interests, Rite Solutions then welcomes them with a birthday party to meet the team. Jim believes the formula for success is:

  • Trust them + ask them = They will think about the future
  • Listen + (then) reorganize = contribute to the future
  • Sense of importance + sense of belonging = they will care
  • Reward + make it fun = loyalty to the company

The other thing these high performers do well is manage failure. In a hierarchical organization ones position is conditional on “continued success”, the implication of which is that failure = demotion, effectively incentivizing inaction. So it’s hardly surprising to find that these high performers not only embrace failure but actively build failure into their culture.

HCL Tech’s CEO, Vineet Nayar, says their organization has stopped running “pilots”, and instead runs “experiments”. The logic been that “a pilot” has a predetermined scope, while an experiment encourages people to chip in with “What if we tried this?”… The other benefit of running experiments is that failure becomes part of a process.

Vineet also had a few other interesting quotes, my favorites were:
– “The c-suites suffer from depreciating intellectual capital”
– “HCL is in the business of growth, not happiness, but we have found out that happiness results in growth”

The secret to growth for HCL was to “invert the pyramid” and place central importance at the point where employees and the customers interact; Vineet calls this the “value zone”. At HCL, a manager’s role is to enthuse, encourage and enable employees to deliver value in the value zone.

A few of the speakers sounded warnings about the danger of engaging employees. The common theme was that you should expect conflict and imperfections to be brought up publically, but even this part of the process reinforces senior management are serious and forces people to clean house.

Management is changing every day and the prize will go once again to those who adapt fastest.

Scott (30 Posts)

CEO Digital Infusions

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