Complex Made Simple

From rigidity to agility: Reinventing top-down management

Century old work hierarchies are still there, even in the most forward-thinking global companies – but horizontal team structures are proving more “knowledge” effective.

Reinventing outdated management hierarchies is the key to leadership success, as organizational charts can lead to dysfunction and create toxic cultures Remote working has given collaboration in the cloud in real-time more importance allowing companies to benefit from faster decision-making and a culture of knowledge sharing Staff fluidity in skills and knowledge allows organizations to be far nimbler, and better prepared to take advantage of new market opportunities

Century old work hierarchies are still there, even in the most forward- thinking global companies, but it is getting old as time and time again, horizontal team structures are proving more “knowledge” effective. 

A decentralized and mobile workforce unchained from the constraints of time and physical space is defining a new productivity ecosystem. 

What is that system and how can companies derail old thinking and coast into a more rewarding business journey? 

Knowledge workers

Reinventing outdated management hierarchies is the key to leadership success, according to Vasant Narasimhan, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Novartis. 

He said that the most precious resource businesses have is leadership, but that leadership is not a rank, but “something that you earn every single day”.

According to Narasimhan, “The source of power for a leader is your ability to create opportunities for the people around you, and if the reason you want to do something is to please the hierarchy, you risk losing that.”

Organizational charts  

Organizational charts are there to show who is the boss but what it can sometimes lead to is dysfunction and create toxic cultures, of trying to get to the top at any cost even undermining teamwork for personal gain.

If team work and collaboration risks revealing a person’s strategies and diminishes his or her chances of upward movement, then the practice will be avoided at all cost.  

But here’s the bigger problem with org charts. Where does the customer fit in within it?  

In order to sell and serve the customers’ various needs, nimbleness and breakneck speeds are needed, not slow red tape.  

We live in turbulent geo-political times, with dominant factors like a tech-enabled generation, climate change, an smart mobility making organisational agility, rather than rigidity, never more important to allow organizations to change, adapt and innovate in real-time.  

The self-managed worker

The New York Times (NYT) goes as far as saying that “The rise of co-working spaces and work-from-home policies means that the sofa is the new office chair.”

“The energy-guzzling fluorescent lights are looking antiquated, as are the sea of gray cubicles and the immobile steel desks covered in stacks of memos,” the NYT added  

Remote working is today a transformational driver of office agility, be it working from your home, hotel, co-working spaces, or when mixing business with leisure, aptly known ‘bleisure’.  

Remote working has given collaboration in the cloud in real-time more importance allowing companies to benefit from faster decision-making and a culture of knowledge sharing, and employees need agile technology to best perform in that new timeless space. 

Connectivity, dismantling a silo mentality, and increasing resource sharing, would allow, for instance, technology such as artificial intelligence to pinpoint communication breakdowns and suggest smart solutions.

A study of Chief Innovation Officers by IESE Business School reveals that 9 out of 10 think that “agility was highly important to the future success of their companies”.

Digital natives

 9-to-5 jobs exclude a huge pool of talent from single parents to disadvantaged people, and those hampered by traffic, distance or even unsafe journeys from and to the office.   

This necessitates businesses having to build digital ecosystems that enable anytime/anywhere working, aka the gig economy making these companies more appealing to “digital natives” than traditional big companies.   

Businesses need to locate leaders with the drive, determination and ambition to thrive in the future of work which include dealings with other competing organisations as friends not foes. Today, anything goes and this needs fluid relationships that enable employees to move seamlessly between departments and develop a holistic view of these complex relationships. 

This staff fluidity in skills and knowledge allows organizations to be far nimbler, and better prepared to take advantage of new market opportunities.

The future of business puts people at the center of profit strategy. The boss is dead. Long live the new digital boss.