A World Without Managers

Greetings.  Many companies I work with express a clear desire to create "flatter" organizations that "empower" their employees and push decision-making down to the lowest possible level.  It is an admirable pursuit that is fraught with challenges and powerful opportunities.  On the plus side, it reduces the time required and cost of decisions and moves decision-making closer to where the action is.  It also has the potential to engage employees in new ways by giving them a much bigger stake in the success of the business.  This in turn should lead to greater innovation and initiative as employees seek to solve problems, create more value and connect more directly with their internal and external customers and partners in new and better ways.  

On the challenge side, it requires us to have the right cast of characters in place and to all be aligned around a set of values and operating principles that support our mutual success.  It requires us to let go, butt out and give people the freedom to be brilliant and also make mistakes.

So it should come as no surprise that even the best intentioned companies rarely end up being very flat.  That's why Gary Hamel's article titled "First Let's Fire all the Managers," in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review should warrant your interest.  Because it profiles Morning Star, the world's leading processor of tomatoes, and a company where "no one has a boss," "employees negotiate responsibilities with their peers," "everyone can spend the company's money," "each employee is responsible for acquiring the tools needed to do his or her job," "there are no titles and no promotions," "compensation decisions are peer-based."  And where everybody creates, and reports to, their own personal mission statement.

A company in which 400 full-time employees generate $700 million in annual revenues.

And a company that will either excite you to the max or frighten you to death whenever you imagine the possibility of creating a flatter organization.

Tomatoes_aug08_631

We win in business and in life when we unlock the genius in everyone. And when we figure out the right organizational structure to make it happen.

Cheers! 

Intelligent, Innovative and Experienced

Greetings.  We all know that great leadership is essential to the success of any company or organization.  Skilled leaders set the tone, drive vision and strategy, build strong teams, engage and inspire employees at all levels, instill confidence in customers, keep an eye on the future, nurture innovation, take calculated risks, etc.  So it's often interesting to see how companies talk about, or write about, their leaders.  Case in point, a fast-growing company named comScore which has, in a few short years, created a very successful niche in the world of digital media as a leading provider of "marketing intelligence solutions that enable its customers to understand, measure, leverage, and profit from the web and mobile technologies." 

And here are the exact words that caught my attention:

"comScore has attracted a team of intelligent, innovative and experienced individuals who share a strong desire to achieve goals that have never been accomplished before."

Followed by a set of very impressive resumes for the company's executive team…

It certainly sounds impressive!  After all, wouldn't any customer want to work with a business that is led by "intelligent, innovative and experienced individuals?"  It sure beats working with one led by people who are "clueless, behind the times, and have no relevant experience."  Though I'm a bit little less certain that I would want to work with a company that is focused on "achieving goals that have never been accomplished before."  Unless, of course, there is a direct correlation between those goals and the key results I need to achieve.  Still, comScore's bold statement raises the value of leadership as a marketing and sales strategy.  And that is a very important idea, because we often base decisions about who to do business with on the technical power of competing products, services and solutions.  Or on cost and operational efficiency.  Or on the nature of the customer experience.  Or a combination of the three, depending on our needs and budget.  And that makes sense.  But doesn't world-class leadership trump them all?  Because it is the best bet in assuring that our real needs as a customer will be understood and met.

Leadership-street-sign1-1024x673
We win in business and in life when we appreciate the real value of leadership as the glue that connects the needs of our customers with the talents and potential of our organization.

Cheers!