Shouldn't all organizations be smart and use their full potential?
Updated: Oct 4, 2021
For many years, I worked with helping organizations become “that” learning and developing organization with committed employees, often with the help of different technology platforms. Frustratingly, I do not think we have progressed as far as we should, even if my clients have been satisfied. Over time, I have become increasingly interested in what it is that hinders development; my gut feeling has always been that it should not be that hard to achieve something more, and that we make things more complicated than necessary. I have observed and interviewed employees and leaders in many diverse organizations. I have also read, listened, reflected and discussed with others in order to crack the code for how we can become smarter.
How can we develop the smart organization that uses its full potential?
What I am both fascinated with and concerned about are:
That here are so few people, even among managers and top management, who really have a sense of their business's overall purpose, i.e., the organization's raison d'être – "why do we exist" (other than making money).
That there are so few people who really care about or understand their customers in depth, who have empathy for the customers and who work humbly to ensure that the customer really gets value from what they "buy”, and who really want to contribute to their customers becoming more successful. And how can you understand the customer's journey if you are "trapped" in your silo (=department) and do not see the whole picture? and this is connected with ...
The fact, that you are so stuck in how you have always done things and that you live in a false sense of security believing what has worked in the past is the best recipe for the future as well; the fact that we are not very open to new ideas about how work can be done and, that we are fixed in our existing processes, routines and tools.
The fact, that we are still quite bad at exploiting the possibilities of new technology, especially internally. We can put effort into developing digital solutions for our customers but we are not very good at using technology opportunities internally in the organization to do things in a different, smarter and faster way. We are faced increasingly with robots and AI, but the tools that we use in our daily jobs often fall by the wayside. And even if we have the tools, people's digital maturity has not developed enough to use the full potential of these tools. Or, quite frankly, I often see that it is a lack of commitment and willingness to go the extra mile that is a major contributor to digital immaturity, i.e., you can, but don't really have the desire and energy to do so!
The slowness I encounter in many organizations caused by the fact they are so stuck in their structures and power hierarchies, gradually creates a culture where decisions are made high up in the organization instead by those who know and can, and will make a difference (ie those who do the job). Working agilely is a trend, but if we put it on existing structures, it will only be an additional burden. I am quite fascinated by all these complex models and transformation programs that are often decided by the top management. Organizational agility is about the ability to adapt and move quickly and with simplicity. In my experience, these programs and methods often only create an even more top-down controlled and difficult to move organizational colossus (and certainly not more engaged employees).
The fact, that we do not collaborate in a way that harnesses the power and "collective intelligence" of the entire organization. That people instead choose to collaborate with those who are closest (organizationally and perhaps physically), or those that they like or have a natural connection to. This in turn contributes to a silos culture and the "we-and-them" feeling rooting themselves even harder into the organization. The fear of giving and taking feedback, or in many cases the lack of having done so, also limits collaboration. Unspoken feelings and opinions prevent positive collaboration and, instead creates tension and irritation.
After all, trust and transparency must be the key to increasing desire and willingness to do a good job. However, I so often encounter organizations where trust is lacking. Management does not fully trust the organization, managers do not trust their employees, employees do not have faith in their managers (or management) and colleagues do not have faith in each other ... This in turn means that people are not transparent with their goals, decisions, what they do or what they think (feedback). Instead, we monitor our "own" position and try to uphold our own position of power (which does not have to be about a managerial positions, but can be, for example, our knowledge or our smart ideas that we choose not to share). Without trust, we dare not let go of the responsibility to make decisions, but instead feeding the "Command-and-control" culture. The lack of trust also affects my next reflection; without trust the people in the organization will never grow.
There may seem to be a belief in organizations that I and everyone else have the desire to really make an effort to learn and to constantly evolve in order to be able to do an even better job", i.e., what is called Growth mindset, but in many cases, when you scratch the surface, it does not exist in depth, except perhaps in a few passionate employees. There are few people that have the energy or desire or ability to test, learn and change. If there is not trust within the organization, people don’t try to learn either – as it's simply not allowed to make mistakes.
Learning is the foundation of a company's success, creating a culture in which all people in the organization develop, learn and contribute to the company's development and ability to innovate. But why is most learning formalized into courses that are completely disconnected from daily work and especially from the organization's strategic goals? While there is nothing wrong with courses – we can learn lots of good things from them – but when there is no connection to everyday life or, even worse, if there is no room to use the new knowledge, the entire investment slips through your fingers. Talk about a waste of resources!
And perhaps the biggest insight is that everything I have pointed out above is connected and affects one another. It is almost impossible to make one thing work completely unless everything works to.
There are often lots of good initiatives taking place on at various levels and in various formats, but all too often, people do not seem to operate using a holistic approach to the organization. I am also fascinated by the fact that people often see the organization as a machine (needing fuel = occasional kick-offs/projects) instead of a living organism consisting of people who are constantly growing and developing around the clock. All too often, initiatives are one-off activities instead of ongoing processes.
An example: Many organizations focus today on agile transformation. But if it does not create trust and transparency and reduce hierarchies at the same time, the agile investment will probably only resemble a fuel stop, it may last for a while but then the vehicle requires even more fuel. Many initiatives that are made are also quite complex which in turn, strangely enough (or maybe not strange?), only seems to reinforce existing working methods, structures, hierarchies, etc
70% of large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals - Forbes.
I believe that the key is to create awareness and participation among the people within the organization. In this way, we can create an organization that uses its full potential, without complex models or programs. If the organization starts to move in the right direction, then the people in it will ensure this continues day after day (without expensive and complex programs and consultants). A simple, holistic and smart approach with people at the very center must surely be the key! I would like to see more courage to experiment and take the next big step in how we design our organizations - not focusing on saving what you can lose, but instead to focusing on what you can win. Let's talk about being SMART!
With Spryhouse, we want to take you on a journey with everyone onboard, where we look at the entire organization, and travel in a straight-forward and smart way. It's hard to know the results in advance, but we know we're on the right track when everyone in the organization:
.. moves in the same direction (instead of running their own race)
... focuses on and contributes to customer success (instead of focusing internally)
... adapts working methods, prioritizes and opts out (instead of doing everything in the same way as they have always done)
... proactively uses new technologies to drive change and digitizes where it provides value (instead of sticking to existing solutions)
... focuses on simplicity and speed, collaborates across departments and break silos (instead of protecting power structures)
... is better together, includes and choose the team (instead of working individually)
... is transparent, delegates and takes responsibility (instead of reporting and monitoring)
... sees challenges (instead of problems), tests, learns and modifies (instead of planning, prescribing and executing)
... learns and develops continuously and in line with the organization's goals (instead of as isolated activities)
I call an organization that works that way, a SMART ORGANIZATION
A SPRY organization is nimble and full of life and energy. It is growing sustainably and healthily. It is driven by its purpose, focuses on delivering results and constantly yearning to deliver more value.
Sustainable • Purpose-driven • Result • Yearn