Industries who have a collaborative culture can show how organisational flexibility creates a sustainable future for enterprise
As the Irish economy turns around and we head into a growth phase once again, it behoves us to remember two seemingly contradicting facts. We as a society are bound to repeat our mistakes but yet are obliged to learn from them if we are to create a better society for our children’s children. To put it another way and quoting an old Irish saying, “As we slide down the bannisters of life, may all the splinters be facing in the right direction!”
Society has up-to the information era thrived solely on the physical creation of goods and associated services. This meant a certain status quo has been reached on the industrialist dominance of ‘process’ over ‘people’ along with related positions taken on product elasticity and industry disruption in particular. As we entered the information era, the presence of fully digital companies and products along with a migration of bricks and motor style companies to the digital space has given pause for thought along this x-y axis of industry disruption and product elasticity.
Internationally, the technology industry has faced many challenges around the overarching dominance of the hierarchical company culture, which has inadvertently suppressed many great technological ideas. The result over time has led to the industry wide rise of the adhocracy culture, where people are empowered from the very top down to organise and drive Software Projects to more successful conclusions then what was possible before.
Companies with hierarchical and dictatorial company cultures where creativity was often perceived as a threat are now suddenly faced with information era competition that not only disrupts their industry, it positively embraces the x-y axis of product elasticity and disruption. Also, the “big” idea of companies merging and been acquired that gained such traction from the 1980s onwards are now faced with a ‘wow dude, where did those guys come from?’ situation. Business intelligence in its traditional format was not really configured to address this, which is why so many businesses discounted the competitive threat in the early days of the information era and went on with a “too big to fail” mentality! Look at the Blockbuster rejection of the Netflix offer in the early days of Internet streaming or Yahoo’s rejection of Google’s approach for a buyout in the early years of Google. Intuitive bias led to very costly mistakes that could have been avoided if change was seen in a different light.
So, what happens if both disruption and product elasticity are seen as opportunities in the information era where hyper-connectivity is now a way of life? Fact is that companies, which thrive on process e.g. Financial Services Institutions, now have to face into the competitive and hard to quantity force of product and industry disruption. The answers are not easy to come by especially if your strategy limits independent thought in favour of process. This is why any company regardless of company culture needs to consider the following when planning their future business strategy and practices.
Business silos – They may serve as a method for process and control but human behaviour tells us that they are also a vehicle for self-interest and inter group rivalry. This can aggregate to a point where the best interests of the group/person can outweigh the best interests of the company. Silos need cross-functional structures to become more flexible in a world that will be ever faster changing as technological development continues to increase in pace.
Independent Thought – The independent thinker once properly engaged could be a powerful source of ideas and analysis that can benefit a business by creating longevity in new ideas along with ‘out of the box’ thinking towards their implementation. A process to deploy a two-way communicative style using the consultative leadership model is ideal for engaging the independent thinker. Also group sessions on company strategy provide an excellent platform for cultivating the independent thinker into contributing new ideas.
Employee Engagement – A companies business practices need to consider the order of “People > Process > Technology” and how that fits into its overall strategy, management practices and culture. Low employee engagement rates are usually a result of bad management practices and care should be taken in how a company conducts itself in its daily operations.
Leadership – Good leadership is required as a precept to employee engagement and meaningful independent thought, which gives rise to great ideas that benefit the company. Leadership, regardless of its orientation (dictatorial, hierarchical, consultative or participative) should always be respectful, clear in communication and acknowledging of the inputs; both positive and negative that an employee makes. This sets the scene for a feedback loop that guides the employee in his/her development, which allows bonds of trust to grow. This in turn triggers employee engagement to a common goal as a company rather then been solely engaged by self interest.
Company Culture – The company culture should reflect the concept of balance between process and people, creativity and productivity, engagement and alignment leaving no room for short sightedness as a group. A new age of collaboration needs to be seated in such a company culture where competition is subordinate to collaboration making room for all at the table.
The cultural dominance of business needs to be replaced with cultural balance between technologists and business where collaboration is a lifestyle choice rather then a buzzword resonating to the very top of all companies that have a digital presence. Companies that pull this off will lead society in the information era where collaboration has shown to produce the best results in a resource diminishing world making less room for error a real reason to consider a new way of living not only possible but also necessary for a better future!