Among fast-growing companies, new organisation forms have emerged over the last decades, introducing empowered teams, self management and network based leadership. This has happened in the context of the ‘gig economy’ and a widespread desire amongst talents to work more independently. Many of these organisations and eco-systems of collaborating companies thrive and grow faster than traditional companies. So are new ways to lead and organise necessary for companies to keep up with the accelerating pace of change, and how is this achieved in practice?
Currently, the increasing pace of change puts pressure on companies and organisations to keep up and innovate. As a consequence, the average life span of companies becomes shorter and shorter. In traditional hierarchical organisations, the amount of decisions to make for middle and senior managers increases significantly, which in turn makes them bottlenecks. Having helped companies go through critical changes since the early 90’s, I would like to share my reflections on success factors for fast-pace and agile change, now and in the future. Since my company Centigo pioneered what is now called network based leadership, I will also share how the two can come together, to inspire and lead change:
Innovation and transformation are examples of cross-functional changes. For cross-functional changes, there is not one single stakeholder in the management team but several. Working for and satisfying only the sponsor is typically not the fastest or best way, and definitely not the most sustainable. If the project team assumes a strict hierarchical approach, there is a high risk that the change will not be optimal or even acceptable for all stakeholders. On the other hand, if the project team applies a collaborative, open and outcome driven approach, friction is reduced and the change is significantly more sustainable.
Such an ‘agile’ and value driven project team must mobilise the right team members and follow a playbook which glues them together. How is that achieved in a fast-changing business environment and what does that have to do with network based leadership? In my experience this is best achieved through…
- - Open and collaborative attitude and ability: A constructive co-operation between project team members (employees and consultants who are either colleagues or non-colleagues) is key, to avoid friction driven by politics.
- - Entrepreneurial spirit: To reach project goals in time, decisions need to be made quickly in many situations, sometimes without having the time to anchor with all whom are affected. To dare taking on responsibility and taking initiative as opposed to accepting roadblocks is often a necessity, as well as to push on with persistence when the situation so requires.
- - Distributed decision making: In a critical change programme, many key decisions should lie with people who both embrace the objectives and understand the underlying issues. Whenever a senior management decision ‘comes down on’ a project team as a surprise, it is also a failure from the project team to foresee and proactively prepare the decision and/or the decision process in time or with sufficient clarity.
- - Value and goal driven mindset: All team members should understand that delivering to spec is not the same as delivering true value. Clear roles and responsibilities is definitely key to success, but only working to spec and not primarily for the outcome and value is not enough in a fast-footed project or innovation team.
- - Having fun and learning from each other! A change journey last over many ‘sprints’ and projects. Continuity and a longer term horizon for some business leaders and project team members is an advantage, given that a company must change continually in today’s environment. Having fun builds endurance and motivation to innovate and continually transform. Learning from each other develops the skills of change; which is a core skill to develop for all organisations, today and in the future.
Centigo is a fast-footed management consultancy which is a network organisation since more than fifteen years, living by the motto that the best way to predict and navigate the future is to create it. By network organisation means that nobody is anyone’s boss. Crystal clear roles and responsibilities combined with a value driven ethos and culture characterise us as a company as a whole, as well as our project teams and individual consultants who help clients succeed with innovation and transformation. Being a network organisation is important for us to live by our philosophy Business Wellness. Business Wellness describes the characteristics and qualities of organisations which are sustainably successful in a changing world. Business Wellness companies have a holistic approach where they create value for all their stakeholders.
Innovation and transformation are critical to keep up and be a winner in today’s business environment. If you also believe that keys to success are i) to apply modern leadership and organisation models for fast-paced change, and ii) to partner with a company that itself has this ‘company DNA’, please contact Centigo at email@example.com or the author firstname.lastname@example.org directly.