Note to the occasional reader: I had this post saved from long ago as a draft and I decided to let it go like it is, I’m in a different mindset now… see next post which is really today’s 🙂
In times of crises, and by this I mean, for instance, when you’re in the latests stages of a project and you spend a lot of time fire-fighting (where have I seen that?), it’s more important than ever to keep in mind the structure of your organisation and use it for good.
What do I mean with that? Well, there are two well know roads that tend to be followed in this kind of situations:
- Forget about structure and just go straight-ahead-no-matter-what. We are all fighters and we can go down as much as it’s needs to be done. Many senior executives really love to envision themselves as being able to reach the ground level when necessary, even brick layering when they see fit.
- Focusing on structure: reorganising again. And with this new focus, we forget the problems at hand and we think of organisational architecture. Some senior managers love to envision themselves (again) as not rushed by circumstances but able to keep a cold mind. And with that suspending the activity of the organisation for the sake of more effectiveness and efficiency.
Neither is effective at all.
The first kind thinks that setting an example is useful, which is not exactly true. You expect a captain able to know every detail about his boat, true, but his main purpose is to steer the wheel. When the conductor of an orchestra starts playing the piano, the rest of the orchestra, mesmerised, feel as if they were directors themselves, and look at the empty place in front of them with scepticism, and the senior manager playing along in disgust. Instead of leading the way, this senior manager is seen as exercising and hipocritical and unsustainable exercise.
Please, don’t micromanage us if you still want our initiative! Otherwise brick layering will turn into brick breaking.
The second group think that it’s trading off time for effectiveness. But in fact is wasting both. Crises are not the best occasions for organisations unless you want to make a crisis-prone organisation.
To change, there has to be the will to change, which will hopefully melt the existing structure and (a small) part of the culture, and a road to follow, a new vision, a new strategy to be implemented that will derive a new structure, that will have to be built and solidified. Does anyone really think that can be done in the rush-hour? I don’t.
What we risk is increasing the chaos, destroying the slowly established learning-by-doing that make the organisations increasingly efficient, is simply a waste of time and energy.
Then, what should we be doing? Structure is still important, yet it should be interpreted flexibly. That doesn’t mean it should be forgotten. Leaders must lead more than ever, inspire more than ever and, if they want managers to be entrepreneurial and problem solvers, they need to keep away from blame orientation at all times and be the first to adopt a problem-solving mindset.
In the moments of stress and crazyness, that’s when you need leader the mosts, to guide, to nurture, to worry about people, or at least to prevent them ending up throwing bricks at each other.