Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Casting Muscle

There’s been a storm of interest in Zappos's recent announcement that it was getting rid of traditional management hierarchy.  The Washington Post has a good summary.  Click here to view.  In a nutshell the idea is to organise people around the work to be done rather than organise around job titles and pay grades.  The goal is to keep a growing business nimble deploying the best groupings of people over a limited time for a specific ‘job to be done’.

Innovators, especially those in large organisations, take note.  Innovators play a delicate and subtle balancing game.  On the one hand you need a thick skin, supreme self confidence and the tenacity of a barnacle but on the other you need to listen hard to others and to enjoy a level of paranoia that leads you to constantly question the status quo and your own performance.  This crazy mindset-mix is much better achieved with a small number of people working together on a project, with huge attachment to the outcome and not the process.

At ?What If! we try hard to cast the leadership of tasks and projects in pairs or small teams.  We find a well matched pair can inject more than double the audacity, support, experience and fun than a single person leading the same task.  And surprisingly, the level of responsibility and feeling of ownership is if anything enhanced rather than diluted.

Innovation needs an over-active casting muscle.  For most organisations - to be constantly asking ‘who needs to work with who to get an outstanding result’, rather than just allocating tasks to the ‘appropriate person’ is new.  So look around you now; how many of your key innovation, change or shake-it-all-up tasks are being led by a single person, and could be re-cast?