The new principles for running organisations: transparency, meritocracy, experimentation, innovation, communities. These have to run through the business: “deeply marbled like the blue in blue cheese”.
Evolutionary advantage cannot be built with the tools and principles of the industrial age. So if you do start with a few of these key principles, where do you end up?
Example of Morning Star – a U.S. food processing company
Every employee is a manager; every employee can sign a cheque. There is almost nothing in the way of bureaucracy. People rate each other. People are accountable to each other. The company has grown revenues and profits for 20 years at double digit rates, in an industry which has grown 1% per year.
Example of Gore – a US manufacturing company
Gore has never lost money in 55 years. It keeps evolving. People do what the job requires. Hamel visited and found that people have business cards with no titles. ‘That’s very disconcerting because you have to be polite to everyone.’ People love it: “We don’t have a hierarchy. We have a lab. You are a leader if you call a meeting and people show up. If they don’t you aren’t a leader.”
The message of the Gore case, as Rosabeth Moss Kantor used to say is let the work do the work. But you do need discipline. If you want adaptation and innovation, you need a feedback loop. How?
As a Gore employee, you get sent a list of 25 employees every year, and you are asked to rank them 1-25 in how much value they added. That determines your compensation. It drives people to think about value. It drives people to think about collegiality. If you come to me for help I can choose to say yes or no – but I know that at the end of the year, I know I have to be accountable for it.
Example of a small Brazilian company
This company (If anyone knows it’s name please let me know!) doesn’t have any travel policy. You choose how much you travel and how much you spend. But it puts everyone in small profit centres, and after every business trip, they put your expenses on line. The motivation is there through profit sharing making half your salary, and the information is there for anyone to see. That is key.
How do you start this journey?
Not by re-designing your whole organisation. Start with the principles and experiment. Become adaptable. Try something new each month. Ping your employees and ask them how it’s going. Ask questions like: ‘Does your manager understand what you are trying to do?’
Managers and leaders are there to facilitate a workforce, remove blockages, not to dictate. For me personally, I think the key among all of Hamel’s principles is transparency. Transparency of information helps everyone understand their role and purpose, and how they can contribute to the whole. Transparency is what encourages meritocracy, experimentation, innovation and communities. It is enables of all these things.
The resounding finish?:
“You are responsible for the working lives of millions of people, and if you are willing to take on that challenge, you will create a world that is better for millions of people… We’re going to kill bureaucracy, and believe me it must die!”
Aaah, nothing like a barn-storming speech to round off a big event. I loved it. It is now up to senior leaders, managers, employees and technology vendors to help reflect these new principles, and enable organisational change to maximum effect!
See our other blogs in our HR Tech Europe Series; HR data is beautiful, The HR tech revolution and 4 myths to be overthrown, William Tincup’s 10 lessons for HR vendors, Is HR inspired or going round in circles?.
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