How to Transform Your Organization Without Upsetting the Hierarchy

You want more collaboration. You want teams performing at their highest level. And you want to build a culture of success.

But because the organization is steeped in hierarchy it’s difficult to build consensus on how to do that.

Leaders think leaders think they’re already collaborating, and you know they’re not. They want people to learn to lead without authority, and yet defer to command-and-control in their own leadership styles.

So, when you try to bring in solutions, you get stopped at every turn.

Unfortunately, this scenario is common among organization development professionals, in that they can see the answers to the problems their leaders have tasked them to solve but get stopped at every turn when executing.

And so you defer to some sort of known leadership training. But it’s still directive in nature, and it only serves to reinforce the hierarchy.

The reality is that truly collaborative environments require new skills and tools for leaders and you can’t get there with anything that reinforces directive leadership.

What do you do? Where do you start?

The Journey of 1000 miles

If you really want to move the needle on transformation, it’s important to provide the necessary tools and skills that leaders need to foster better collaboration, and that starts with projects.

Projects are how you create and improve everything in your organization, so if you can get your project system running in an optimized way, you’ll start delivering more on your strategy.

But we’re not talking about traditional project management, as indicated by Mistina Picciano’s article: What’s Wrong with Project Management – and Why It’s Easier to Fix than You Think.

Project management isn’t a collaborative sport, it’s more of a directive one. The project manager creates the plan and then delegates it out to the team members.

Project leadership emphasizes building high performing, empowered teams who actually do the planning as a team, using collaborative project process tools.

Therefore, project leadership a great place to start a shift in how organization are led and begin the process of optimizing the whole organization instead of the parts making it an appropriate first step in the transformational journey.

And, it is the most important training ground for future leaders because it teaches facilitation, not delegation.

In other words, leaders facilitate team decisions and don’t make them on their own.

And best yet, providing these skills and tools won’t upset the hierarchy. You can sneak them in—coming from an angle and letting it snowball throughout the organization.

People naturally want to work this way.

They want to be collaborative.

They want to be productive.

And they want to build valuable relationships.

Also in this issue, be sure to check out our interview with J.P. Laqueur, the co-founder of BrandFoundations, a New York-based consultancy that helps organizations align culture with the larger brand story. Laqueur talks about how they help to bring company cultures into alignment, especially after a merger or acquisition.

And if you haven’t read Switch: A Practical Guide to Creating Effective, Long-Term Change, make sure you put it on your reading list. It talks a lot about what’s happening psychologically behind the scenes with any change initiative. My favorite is the Rider and the Elephant analogy, which I can see happening in real-time in my own life.

About Jason Myers

As the Editor-in-Chief of OD Innovator Magazine, Jason Myers is on a mission to help people transform their organizations into more innovative and collaborative environments. He co-developed a Crash Course in Collaborative Project Leadership to arm leaders with needed skills to drive innovation in any organization.

View all posts by Jason Myers →

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