Photo by Bench Accounting on Uns

Deborah Ancona and Kate Isaacs published on July 11, 2019 by Harvard Business Review

Leaders often say they want to empower autonomous teams and free the front line to innovate, but they also fear the chaos that might be unleashed if they do. What if people go off in too many directions? How will people make decisions? What about resources? Who gets what, and how do you mitigate all of the risks? It’s possible to create alignment and control — while also giving your employees more freedom — by putting guardrails in place. These guardrails can help leaders make a real change.

If you fear that people will go off in too many directions — that they won’t be aligned with strategic priorities — here’s a guardrail: Cultivate a strategic mindset.

To address the fear of chaos, leaders can instill a strategic mindset. This means that everyone, even people lower down in the organization, have a sense of the business model, strategic plans, and how their work could push the organization forward.

W.L. Gore has learned a lot about how to equip its people with a strategic mindset. Early on, the company depended on midlevel leaders to cascade strategic information to their people. But the information was often misinterpreted or didn’t get communicated at all. Now senior leaders go directly to employees and use videos, slides, webinars, and in-person forums to communicate strategy and financials. “We joke that the half-life of anything we communicate is the midpoint of the plane ride back home,” said Tom Moore, a senior leader at Gore. “You have to do it again and again, keep making it simpler and more crisp, make sure it’s clear for nonnative English speakers, and tell people how it connects to their jobs.”

If you fear that throwing out bureaucratic rules will mean that people don’t know how to make decisions, here’s a guardrail: Simple rules.

Simple rules, a term coined by Donald Sull and Katherine Eisenhardt, are just-in-time structures that help leaders deal with blockages and behavior run amok. When a bottleneck arises, leaders at all levels identify the problem and come up with a simple rule to help address it, and then step out of the way.

Microsoft recently implemented a simple rule to handle bugs that build up during the software development process. Engineers used to wait to fix bugs until the end of the development cycle. But inevitably, after they fixed the first set of bugs, they would discover more — and more. Morale would plummet, and launch timelines dragged out. The simple rule of a “bug cap” was put in place, calculated by the following formula: # of engineers x 5. If the bug count ever rises above the cap, the development team stops working on new features and gets the bugs under the cap. Now the company can get products out the door faster, because the software is always in a healthy state.

If you fear that the freedom to innovate will result in too many poor-quality initiatives and take resources away from the best ideas, here’s a guardrail: Funneling.

A lot of ideas bubble up in organizations, but not every idea can or should move forward. There has to be a funneling process. First, product developers have to attract talent to their teams and partner with others to get resources. In attracting talent, some ideas get refined and improved, while others die a quiet death when no one signs up to follow. Second, seasoned leaders who have a broad view of the organization may point to similar projects or synergies with other teams that push for further integration and refinement. These “enabling leaders” ask questions to help the team discover problems and improve strategic alignment. Add the need to prove to others that the project is a good strategic bet and deserves organizational resources, and soon the number of projects is much smaller.

Southwest Airlines uses a choice committee with members from all levels in the organization for this purpose. They know that not every idea can or should get full company resources, so committee members decide which ones to pursue and implement. The unique boarding process at the airline started out as an idea that made its way through the choice committee.

If you fear that there will be too many risky ventures without multiple levels of oversight, here’s a guardrail: Distributed risk mitigation.

In nimble companies, there aren’t a lot of quality control people watching to ensure that products meet standards, or PR people worrying about reputational issues. This is because risk mitigation is everyone’s job. Just like in manufacturing firms where anyone who sees a problem can pull a lever and stop the assembly line, anyone can order a “stop” for a project that is risky in terms of revenue or reputation. Everyone is responsible for not exposing the company to risk that could hurt it.

Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, who focuses on psychological safety in the workplace, points to how the mining company Anglo American used a traditional South African village assembly, a lekgotla, to make it safe for miners to share their ideas for creating a work environment of care and respect. Over 30,000 workers were trained in the new safety protocols. Fatalities plummeted as a result.

The aviation industry has used distributed risk mitigation to transform its safety record, following decades of fatal plane crashes, 70% of which were attributed to human error. The key: creating a new culture in which risk is everyone’s responsibility and equipping all employees with training on assertiveness and the benefits of advocating the best course of action even though it might involve conflict with others.
With guardrails in place, it’s a lot easier to let go and shift to a nimble organization. Guardrails give employees the structure they need to work smarter and better and are far more effective at safeguarding a company’s strategy than detailed bureaucratic controls.

Read on line !

Laisser un commentaire

*
*

Required fields are marked *