Can organisations be too big?
What would happen if organisations actually stopped themselves from becoming ‘too big’. Sometimes, being too big can harm rather than help an organisations purpose, culture, and ability to deliver. Now being big is different from being accessible or reaching people. In our digital age organisations don’t need to need to be physically big with 1,000’s of employees – they need to be smart, agile, and accessible. I genuinely believe that organisations can get too big – people become numbers, customers become transactions, communication becomes a labyrinth and the core purpose is obscured by process, bureaucracy, and PR.
Be ambitious, be seen, be heard but be conscious of your raison d’etre, caring of your people, and serving to your customers. Spilt yourself up into self-managed entities, work with partners, look for smart ways to achieve your purpose, that avoid the pitfalls of size.
Invest in people
Randomly choose 10-15 people from your organisation. Ask them what their hobbies and interests are, then invest in them. Buy them a day, an experience, something where they can go off for a day or two and immerse themselves in their passion. Ok, it needs to be practical so maybe not a space flight! When they return, run a session with them. Find out what they learnt, how it made them feel, who they met, how it developed them. Then ask what, if any insight and ideas it gave them that could be applied in their working environment. You might just be surprised by what you get.
Who is up for the challenge?
Change the way you view change
Change the way you view change. We talk endlessly about change – getting people to accept it, agree to it, own it, deliver it, make it effective, etc. Let’s change the way we look at change and stop trying to do the big things. Focus on small change instead, build confidence, empowerment, and a culture of change by making it a choice, accessible and do-able to all. Choose a team, any team – ask them what small change they would like to make in the organisation or within their team. Empower them to set the scope, shape the change, and deliver it. Make sure the change is within their gift, actually doable and preferably not too big.
Build a culture of change through small steps of achievement, getting your people to drive the change, and rewarding the success of it when they do.
8 Point test
Are you really doing what you do to the best of your ability? Challenge of the day for leaders and managers. You don’t need to make or sell ‘funky’ products & services to be a great organisation to work for. What matters is that you do what you do, to the best of your ability and that of all of your people. Take the ‘8 point test’, to see whether you are getting all of the potential out of all of your people including yourself.
- how much of your time do you spend responding to complaints/issues as opposed to hearing about new ideas?
- on average, how many applicants do you get for a job vacancy?
- what is your attrition rate?
- what is your sickness rates and do you understand what the main contributing factors are?
- how much time do your people spend on doing their ‘day’ job as opposed to learning/development, team building and socialising/playing at work events?
- Do you have any way of measuring/understanding how ‘happy’ your people are?
- Describe your culture in 5 words and conduct a survey to see what % of your people agree or disagree with it.
- Conduct another survey, ask your people to list their top 3 priorities in life – not at work but in life, that’s really important. Analyse the results, work out how or if the organisation contributing to them?
Stop leading and start being. All of my role models, without exception, have inspired, empowered, and developed me, not by explicitly leading but by being. Being with me, spending quality time with me – very often our meetings would purposely by away from the office so that the environment was ‘classless’ and I was free to talk about both professional and personal concerns and achievements. They would often look at my work with me, give constructive feedback but always made me see and understand my true value. They shared themselves with me – they were human too. We had a relationship, we had genuine respect for each other – they saw me, they heard me, they helped me to help myself and they let me into their world too.
So, leaders – open up, make relationships with people, empower them, mentor them, believe in them, trust them but most of all teach them to lead themselves.
For every person in an organisation – forget grade, seniority, experience, or skills, just do this one small thing every day, preferably to people you don’t know that well or do not know at all. Ask someone you are stood next too, sat next too, walking next to or within talking distance – “how are you today? how is life going?” When they answer, look at them, give them your full attention. Do not interrupt or start talking about yourself, just let them have their moment. Just as you will have yours when someone else returns the favour.
That’s it – nothing complex or big just small, subtle changes to show people that you have seen them, heard them, and care enough to ask about them.
Amazing the difference it will make to someone, somewhere.
Who are people really?
Everyone has a story and behind that story lies the key to unlocking their true potential. At an organisational level, we focus on the superficial stuff – experience, jobs, education, skills, etc. We need to get behind this, to really unpick the threads that lead to the passion, motivation, and ultimately, the way to unlock that potential.
So, the challenge is to find a way to understand the person behind the CV. What is their background, what are their hobbies, their passions, the things that really motivate them, what is really of value to them? Find a way to see the ‘whole’ of the person, not just the part they think or you think that you need to see.
Consider changing your on-boarding process – take it outside, for a day or more, not just hours. Make it about so much more than the role and the immediate team. Widen it to include people from across the organisation including leaders. Multi-task, use onboarding as a way to have frequent, cross-function events and time out. Think outside of the box. The best way to get to know people is to spend quality time with them, not just when they start with you but throughout their time with you.
It is only the only way to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Mental health is the number 1 threat to an organisations productivity. Roughly half of the UK population are unhappy with their jobs. Management is seen as disconnected and remote. Customer service is still a dream versus reality. Organisations are judged on their ability to generate profit rather than meaningful value.
Not sounding like a particularly attractive proposition, right?
The solutions are part of human nature, they don’t need to be invented. Let’s start with 5 basics and work from there:
- Create meaningful goals with all of your people not just the senior leaders. Measure the success of your goals in value created not purely profit.
- Put culture at the top of the agenda, create a senior role to ensure your organisation has a ‘heart’, and operates as a ‘live community’ not a hierarchical machine.
- Physically and emotionally move management to sit, work, and play with the wider organisation so they can both see and feel how it really is.
- Bring back passion and self-motivation by creating space in people’s day to play and be involved with something they love, link the creative output to what you do.
- Create a working space that is a destination you choose to go to not a prison you have to be in.