Original cartoons developed by Gary Hamel and illustrated by some of the world’s most illustrious cartoonists.
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March 8, 2022
Executive myopia--leaders who are unwilling or unable to jettison outdated beliefs--is the #1 threat to organizational resilience. My advice: regard every belief you have about your business as a mere hypothesis, forever open to disconfirmation.
Credentials are important (you want your doc to be highly skilled), but credentialism can be dangerous. The fact that a job doesn’t require a degree says little about the abilities of someone in that job. No job is inherently low-skilled—but millions of jobs are low-opportunity.
If you wonder why bureaucracy has been so persistent, it’s not that we lack alternatives--such as Haier, Nucor, Vinci, WL Gore, Buurtzorg and Morning Star. The real problem is that we lack alternatives that work for bureaucrats.
Q: How many employees in your org have a voice in setting strategy? A: Not enough. The most valuable strategic insights come from those with no stake in the status quo--from young employees, new hires and those far from head office. That's why "open strategy" is a necessity.
Alignment is a double-edge sword. While focus is good, too much alignment produces collective myopia. On average, large companies are more likely to be over-aligned (too much groupthink) than under-aligned.
When did we start calling managers "leaders?" Talk about grade inflation! A leader is someone people choose to follow. So ask yourself, if my "subordinates" had a choice, would they choose to follow me? Never forget: you're a leader only if your team says you are.
Here's a question to test whether your organization is serious about innovation: "What's more likely to get you ahead at work--obedience or originality? If deference and conformance are the smartest career strategies, your company's in danger.
Many believe that a company can't be big AND entrepreneurial. It would be more accurate to say a company can’t be monolithic AND entrepreneurial. Haier, the global appliance leader, broke a 50,000 person organization into 4,000 independent operating units, each with its own P&L. Every “microenterprise” has the freedom to set its strategy, hire and fire, and distribute rewards.
In most organizations the word "leader" has been hopelessly devalued. It tends to be applied to anyone in a managerial role. But, as you may have noticed, having subordinates doesn’t make someone a leader. So here's a better definition: A leader is someone who makes a catalytic contribution to collective accomplishment in difficult circumstances--whatever their role.
Bureaucracies are innovation phobic and congenitally risk averse. They offer few incentives to those inclined to challenge the status quo. As you may have discovered, in a bureaucracy, being a maverick is a high-risk occupation.
According to a poll by Gallup, only one in five employees feels their opinions matter at work, and fewer than one in four said they’re expected to innovate in their jobs. Sadly, it seems that many organizations waste more human capacity than they use.
In the Age of Upheaval, every organization needs an “evolutionary advantage”—the capacity to change as fast as change itself. That means guarding against denial, challenging legacy beliefs, generating hundreds of new strategic options each year, shifting resources from legacy businesses to promising opportunities, radically trimming bureaucracy, and proactively redefining customer expectations.
In building the case against bureaucracy, we need more than theory and anecdotes. We need robust data on the prevalence and costs of bureaucratic drag—the equivalent of the Body Mass Index. Let’s call it the "Bureaucratic Mass Index.” Click here to calculate the BMI for your organization
No organization needs more than three management levels. If your consultants haven’t told you this, it’s because they’re afraid to. But here’s the thing, when you flatten the pyramid, everyone’s job gets better. Nobody likes micromanaging others. (OK, almost nobody.)
Here's a crazy (and profitable!) idea: Over the next 12 months, redirect your org's leadership development budget to equip frontline teams with the skills and tools they need to be self-managing. Guaranteed to raise your training ROI.
To beat bureaucracy, stop acting like a bureaucrat. Empower others defy stupid rules, shun flattery, be generous, safeguard the future, and never suck up. In short, don’t sacrifice your humanity for bureaucratic wins.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of jobs in the American economy require little or no originality. This says nothing about the people in those jobs, and everything about how bureaucracy willfully squanders human ingenuity.
Bureaucracy is just too hard. Too many layers, managers, staffers, processes, policies, reports, targets, metrics, committees, and meetings!! You need all this when you try to run a business from the top by remote control—when you don’t give those on the front line the skills, information, autonomy and skills they need to be self-managing
Contrary to conventional wisdom, what makes a job low skilled is not the nature of the work to be performed, or the credentials required, but the opportunities employees have to grow their capabilities and tackle new problems.
As you may have noticed, people with power are reluctant to give it up, and often have the means to defend their prerogatives. That’s a problem, since you can’t build a human-centric organization without flattening the pyramid.
Ask just about anyone to draw a picture of their organization and you’ll get the familiar pyramid of lines and boxes. Formal hierarchy is simple, scalable, and seemingly timeless. It’s also a colossal liability in a lightspeed world.
The question at the core of bureaucracy is, “How do we get human beings to better serve the organization?” The question at the heart of humanocracy is, “What sort of organization elicits the best that human beings can give?”