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Human Resources

Open Culture & Hierarchy less Work

Open Culture & Hierarchy less Work

Steve Jobs said it best: “You have to be run by ideas and not by hierarchy.”

Autonomy inspires a culture of innovation, and less top-down management is proving to be instrumental in developing a prolific business. In traditional, top-down companies, communication is slow because information and approvals must traverse multiple layers of management. These environments also struggle to adapt to change, which does not fare well in today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving marketplace.

“Open” Philosophy and what you can learn from its efforts.

1.   Don’t just strategize for change

All businesses need to change. This is as true of a small, fast-paced creative business as it is of a global corporate behemoth. The problem is, despite the considerable money thrown at them and the legions of paper theories written about them, most change programs fail. Strategy is, in fact, the easy bit. Paying for it hurts, but the pain passes. Doing it gets very hard indeed. You need to be prepared for the long road ahead. Only a dramatic shift in culture can yield the best results.

2.   Do it now

Let’s face it, the ideal moment to change your business—when you’ve got a clear diary, all your clients are happy and there are no major projects in the pipeline—will never present itself. So stop waiting for the right time, just get on with it.

3.   Pick the right team

The operative word here is team. You need to put together a genuine and focused group at the top of the business to make change happen. A team who invests effort in collective success and effort in making the team itself work effectively.

4.   Do as I do, not as I say

Fundamentally, culture is the behavior of management. Too often, people accept change needs to happen, but believe it’s someone else that needs to behave differently to make it a reality. What you do as a manager, not what you say, is what really counts. Only your actions and leading by example will bring about a change in the way your whole organization behaves.

5.   Engage, don’t mandate

The biggest barrier to change is mobilizing and energizing your workforce, which is likely to be highly skeptical. Your people need to be invited to shape the future of the business, not manipulated to satisfy the needs of management.

6.   Break habits and make change visible

Culture is like concrete, which over time sets into a certain mold. An effective change program therefore needs a degree of physicality. Too much so-called change stays on PowerPoint. To really shake things up, you’ve got to take a sledgehammer to that concrete, but be mindful that, in time, the new way of doing things will also become too entrenched. You need to keep smashing and resetting to keep your culture vibrant and your business energized.

Fundamental to the success of Open is the breaking of barriers, physical or otherwise. So the first big step is tearing down walls: no offices (for anybody) and nobody sitting in departments. Then change your processes to involve all stakeholders throughout a project so everyone not only understands the problem, but takes pride and ownership in delivering the best answer.

7.   Management as Mentors

Open turns the traditional organizational hierarchy upside down, recasting management as mentors. Ultimately, its success lies in the emphasis on the power of the individual and their teams to do the right thing, their way. It allows ambitious entrepreneurs to thrive and be the best they can be.

If you sit in an organization where the seventh floor doesn’t know what the first floor thinks, you can’t change a company’s culture. To combat this kind of malaise, you need to change people’s emotional contract with the organization—we went as far as giving junior executives a place on the board through the creation of “Open Chairs.”

You also need tangible demonstrations of trust and devolution of responsibility.

Open belongs to everyone. It involves everyone. Even clients! Ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, so allow people to adapt the approach as they see fit and launch their own initiatives to promote a culture of collaboration. You’ll find leaders emerge at all levels.

8.   Recognize that change is lumpy

Set ambitious metrics for success and be transparent about what they are. Encourage open and honest feedback and share all the results with everyone. Open is about decisions, action and continuous change. Coupled with ambitious targets and full disclosure on progress, comes the very real possibility of failure. If you’ve fully embraced Open, you will make the wrong decisions from time to time, but as long as you continue to act and make more good decisions than bad ones, your business will move forward fast. Remember, change isn’t linear—it’s lumpy.

9.   Don’t stop

Too often, change consists of one-off initiatives that are forgotten by employees and abandoned by management. You need to nurture continual change and ongoing collaboration through workshops, training, social events and company-wide challenges.

10.                     The Stakeholder Journey

Identify your stakeholders and make sure they see the result of your change program—not just being different, but being better. Not better in the abstract or in a corporate sense, but better for them as individuals.

This applies to all stakeholders and you need to be able to articulate exactly how. From the personal association with a winning team, the potential career development if you’re the client who commissions a breakthrough piece of creative, the rewards that come with working for a successful company, and yes, even just coming to a nice place to work.

11.                        The Status, Hierarchy, Power and Culture of Innovation

The approach to innovation has emerged in recent years as one of the most important processes for an organization. It has also been identified as a critical factor for competitiveness.

To build a true culture of innovation, it’s key to transform the organization from within. This implies the need to address a long-term commitment to a personal culture change.

  1. Flexibility vs. Hierarchy

The promoted values in an organization such as tolerance, respect, honesty, equality, flexibility, etc. are very important because they are an essential driving force for how someone understands and conducts his job. There is clear evidence that shows the relationship between flexibility and a culture that supports innovation. The less hierarchical, more organic and flexible organizations favor innovation, as opposed to the rigid and hierarchical organizations that hamper it. Centralization, formalization, and status of authority are clearly not good enablers for innovation. Instead, evidence shows that delegation of authority combined with participation and collaboration by employees in decision-making, facilitates learning and enables them to adapt to change and assume the risks associated with innovation.

  1. Hierarchy and Knowledge

This contributes to the closeness between the boss and his collaborators with positive impact on the achievement of objectives and the dissociation between power and knowledge.

  1. The Environment and the Atmosphere

Finally, we find another key aspect of the organization that could be described as the “right environment”. The environment is a good indicator of the culture of an organization. Through different interactions between the team and its leaders a certain type of atmosphere is formed and shared. Here, leaders play a fundamental role as key influencers through their explicit and implicit behaviors; what they say and do.

Without a doubt, culture is the basis upon which an innovative organization is built. An organization has to be ready to embrace change as an opportunity, and not as a threat, and encourage minds to be open and attentive. To build an internal culture of innovation, it’s imperative to develop processes of lateral thinking, to express greater creativity, and to boost the development of innovation and business value creation for the team and for society

This is an important message to encourage collaboration and foster a culture of innovation, where everyone feels part of the same challenge and a common project.


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