I believe we are reaching a tipping point where organizations are finally moving away from the command-and-control structures on which they were founded because that’s what has been holding them back.
It’s being driven by a powerful undercurrent of “New Power” that’s changing the nature of work, and the innovative leaders are paying attention.
My evidence is based on a litany of books and articles such as Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization in the Harvard Business Review, The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, and Alive at Work by Daniel M. Cable. Steven Covey talks about leaders that are Multipliers versus Diminishers. And Robert Kegan discusses the emergence of direct development organizations in An Everyone Culture.
Driven by millennials, people simply won’t tolerate authoritarian, command-and-control environments–and they don’t have to. They’ll take less money for an opportunity to have more impact, wear different hats, and perform work they feel is important.
But it’s not just millennials, which is why so many organizations are paying much closer attention to their cultures and purpose.
Some are doing this because they’re losing top performers. People start out engaged and become disempowered and lose interest.
Others simply realize that collaboration is more in line with human nature, and want to operate differently. So they are experimenting with new solutions to harness this New Power and put it to work towards a common goal.
When it works, it seems like change comes out of nowhere. But it hasn’t. Leaders simply have realized that it’s a long game and are committed to finding the right balance for the future of work.
When it falls apart, it’s most commonly because of leaders deferring to directive leadership principles (because it’s all they know), instead of tackling the root causes.
Let’s face it–It’s hard to change 60-year-old mindsets. Giving up this authoritarian control is hard for most that have spent their entire careers collecting direct reports to gain power in organizational control, so don’t expect the controllers to go quietly. (That’s happening too in our politics).
But all or nothing organization-wide transformation doesn’t have to be the solution either. The winds of change can be used in your favor, regardless of what level you are in the organization.
So the fix is not only to recognize what’s happening, but to also start making some changes in the mindsets of your leaders, project teams and individuals in smaller increments.
For example, start with projects.
Anything new or improved that you want to achieve in an organization is accomplished through projects and initiatives, and if you can give project leaders the skills and tools to lead collaboratively, it will spread. That’s why we’ve launched a free Crash Course on Collaborative Project Leadership—simply to give people some basic skills to lead collaboratively.
Organizational training is also changing as people are hungry for new skills and learning, and yet most traditional methods are a waste of time and resources. As technology has improved and the culture has shifted, more microlearning concepts are emerging.
Call me an optimist, but I believe we’re just beginning to see the positive effects of this wind of change. The consistent thread across much of the innovative organizational thinking comes down to a change in mindset that control and authority is required to lead people.
Change what you can at whatever level you can. Find programs that provide real learning and insights that can be carried forward into your organization. Give people the skills to lead without authority.
And you can learn about how to lead a bottom-up transformation from this issue’s OD Innovator Donna Jordan did it in her organization. She knew there was her culture was disempowering unbeknownst to their executive leaders. But she was able to pilot a collaborative project—and others in the organization took notice and wanted to be a part of it.
And when you do, be sure to let me know so we can share your innovations.