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8 You'Re Getting the Behaviour You Designed

8 You'Re Getting the Behaviour You Designed

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Published by: helperforeu on Feb 01, 2010
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You're Getting the Behavior You Designed
 Jim Clemmer 
 The evidence is clear and overwhelming. Centralized, hierarchial organizations work aboutas well as the old Soviet Union. Despite all the evidence, I am still appalled by the numberof variations on the centralization themes I still keep smacking into. What makes thingseven worse is how senior managers in these dysfunctional organizations proclaimempowerment, participation, teams, leadership, trust, and the like. Then they take partialmeasures while expecting total success. They liberate parts of their organizations whilelimiting other parts. They push hard with one foot on the accelerator while also pushinghard with their other one on the brake. Their words say "you're empowered". Their actionssay "you're empowered as long as you get approval first". These dysfunctional organizationsend up trying to go in two opposing directions at once. I once halted an executive retreatand everybody went home after the group of seven division presidents and corporate staff vice presidents couldn't agree on whether their values were centralization ordecentralization. Trying to do both at once was ripping the organization apart. The CEOnever could decide which direction he wanted to commit to. He was eventually fired asfrustrations and infighting rose while organization performance fell.Most centralists don't set out to deceive anybody. In their heads they know that highdegrees of involvement, participation, and autonomy are key elements in high organizationperformance. But in their hearts, they still crave orderliness, predictability, and control.That's why they cling to such anachorisms as strategic planning. It's part of their futilesearch for a master plan that can regulate and bring a sense of order to our haphazard,unpredictable, and rapidly changing world. Our equally outdated accounting systems givecentralists plenty of reinforcement. For example, hard financial measures can clearly showthat consolidating and centralizing support services and functions saves money andincreases efficiency -- at least on paper. What don't show up are the alienation,helplessness, and lack of connections to customers or organizational purpose that mind-numbing bureaucracy brings. The energy-sapping and passion-destroying effects of efficiencies may save hundreds of thousands of dollars. But traditional accounting systemscan't show the hundreds of millions of dollars lost because of lacklustre innovation,mediocre customer service, uninspired internal partners, and unformed externalpartnerships.I am an extreme (some might argue dangerous) decentralist. Since I began mymanagement career, I've given people high degrees of autonomy. I've run even smallorganizations to the point of such inefficient decentralization that people are running theirown show. It works. Here are some of the reasons:
Everyone can see and manage their work as part of a whole, interconnected system,not as one in a bunch of parts and pieces.
People are trusted and treated as responsible, caring, and committed adults -- whichis how they then behave.
A collection of small, self-contained teams or business units are many times moreflexible and responsive at meeting threats and capitalizing on opportunities.
Ownership, commitment, energy, and passion levels are much higher.
Everyone focuses on meeting customer/partner -- not the internal bureaucracy's --needs.
People have more control over their work. The vicious cycle of learned helplessnessis replaced with a virtuous cycle of hopefulness and leadership.
Bureaucratic committees become entrepreneurial teams.
Feedback loops are much clearer, shorter, and closer to the customer and markets.High-performing organizations that are thriving in today's chaotic world are adapting andpioneering a wide variety of highly decentralized structures. They are giving up control of people so that people can control their own and the organization's destiny. This is creatingan explosion of organization structures and models with such names as network, shamrock,pulsating, jazz combos, adhocracy, horizontal, hollow spider's web, flat, meritocracy,modular, cellular, cluster, inverted, starburst, federal, pancake, and virtual ... to name afew.
The Shape of High Performance
The search for an ideal or perfect structure is about as futile as trying to find the idealcanned improvement process to drop on the organization (or yourself). It depends on theorganization's vision and values, goals and priorities, skill and experience levels, culture,team effectiveness and so on. Each is unique to any organization. We are also in the midstof a major transition from organization and management practices that began around theturn of the twentieth century. My cloudy crystal ball won't allow me to see whichorganization structure or model will dominate the twenty-first century. Because we're nolonger in an age of mass production and standardization, I sure there won't be just onetype. Rather, we'll see our top organizations grow and shed a variety of structures andmodels to suit the their changing circumstances.However, the shape and characteristics of a high performing organization structure iscoming clearly into view:
Intense Customer and Market Focus
- systems, structures, processes, andinnovations are all aimed at and flow from the voices of the market and customers.The organization is driven by field people and hands-on senior managers in dailycontact with customers and partners.
- operational and improvement teams are used up, down, and acrossthe organization. A multitude of operational teams manage whole systems or self-contained subsystems such as regions, branches, processes, and complete businessunits.
Highly autonomous and decentralized
- dozens, hundreds, or thousands of mini-business units or businesses are created throughout a single company (I've splitbusiness units of twenty five people into smaller business units). Local teams adjusttheir company's product and service mix to suit their market and conditions. Theyalso reconfigure the existing products and services or develop new experimentalprototypes to meet customer/partner needs.
- Senior managers provide strong vision, values, purpose, andstrategic direction to guide and shape the organization. But very lean and keen headoffice management and staff also serve the needs of those people doing the workthat the customers actually care about and are willing to pay for. Support systemsare designed to serve the servers and producers, not management and thebureaucracy.
Networks, Partnerships, and Alliances
- organizational and departmentalboundaries blur as teams reach out, in, or across to get the expertise, materials,capital, or other support they need to meet customer needs and develop new

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