Chapter 6: Releasing the Power of the Many – Changing the IT Leader's Mindset – time for revolution rather than evolution

CHAPTER 6: RELEASING THE POWER OF THE MANY

The modern leader is often faced with too many things to achieve and too few resources to achieve them. In such circumstances, the key challenge is: how do we increase the bang for the buck? What can the leader do to ensure that where it matters most we get the maximum impact from the resources we deploy?

The Transactional Leader may approach this problem through a combination of focus and control, limiting the scope of the activities through unambiguous specifications, backed up by tight work packages and structured individual objectives. Progress against predetermined targets would be rigorously monitored and achievement of individual targets rewarded. The Transactional Leader knows what to do and how best to do it, and will muster and deploy resources accordingly. This invariably leads to a reduction in individual autonomy, coupled with more centralised and short-term-focused decision making. Such strategies can work well when activities are well understood and not subject to significant variation; these are tactics for the production environment. Where success depends upon flexibility, nimbleness and innovation, such control-focused tactics can rapidly lead to a workforce that is unwilling, or unable, to think or act outside the immediate needs of the task at hand. The result is that we just keep doing more of the same, getting the same results and failing to see, or respond to, new opportunities, or even to our customers’ needs.

By contrast, the Transformational Leader will respond to the need for efficiency in production-type tasks, whilst at the same time creating an environment that liberates their team members, giving them the freedom to solve problems innovatively and make decisions that are congruent with the overall aims of the business.

Learning to see anew

We saw earlier how our mental models of cause and effect are so ingrained that we just assume that some things are inviolable, we unquestioningly accept the wisdom of what we see as eternal truths. The Transformational Leader must first and foremost learn to question those things that we just know to be fact.

For example, let’s look at what we know about reward systems. We know that if you incentivise people with extrinsic rewards (pay them for performance), they will perform more efficiently and effectively. Yet repeated experiments have shown that such extrinsic rewards only produce improved performance where the task is well understood and can be completed using existing skills and knowledge. When faced with new and novel problems, ones that require thinking ‘out of the box’, extrinsic rewards tend to have a detrimental impact on performance, producing confused and sub-optimal performance. The reward encourages people to do what they have always done and they become channelled in their thinking and despondent when their efforts fail to produce new solutions.

It would appear, then, that tight management, reward and command and control may be counter-productive when performance is dependent upon innovative thinking, new ideas and new ways of working. We are limited by what we know; being so sure about what we know closes our minds to the possibility of knowing something new.

What we need is a motivational framework that stimulates new thinking, rather than channelling it repeatedly into well-trodden courses of action. The future health of our organisations rests on our ability to inspire our people to deploy all their talents to produce new products and services that delight our customers.

Our challenge, then, is: how do we create an environment where our team members have the desire to think and be different, the latitude to take responsible action, and the understanding to ensure that their actions are congruent with our overall aims and therefore collectively contribute?

Table 5 gives a high-level view of the change in leadership mindset that is required. In broad terms, the change is from the leader as a controller of action, to the leader as the shaper of the environment within which action can develop.

Approach to structure and organisation

 

From

To

1

Favouring command and control

Favouring networked organisations

2

Favouring well-defined role definitions

Favouring self-organising teams

3

Solving problems by involving a few trusted individuals

Solving problems through involving all stakeholders

Table 5: Transformational Leadership – change of emphasis

A framework for shaping the environment

As managers we are used to focusing directly upon people and their immediate actions as the means to improving performance. What we are suggesting is that you will get far greater leverage by focusing on the sustaining environment within which the people operate. To help you better understand where to direct your actions, we suggest that you focus on ACCESS:

A = Alignment

C = Congruence

C = Co-creation

E = Engaged stakeholders

S = Shared responsibility

S = Self-selection.

This simple mnemonic acts as a good guide to the range and nature of the Transformational Leader’s action. We will look at each of these in turn and suggest things you can do to stimulate change in each of these areas.

Alignment

Leaders worry that giving people too much autonomy will produce un-coordinated and potentially conflicting actions. To counter this, they carefully prescribe levels of devolved authority, and seek to limit the range of decisions that can be made without appeal to higher authority for approval. The problem is that such rules can only hope to cover situations which are already well understood. Yet devolved decision making is arguably most effective when the situation is new and no precedent for action exists. Under these circumstances, it is essential not only that people have access to the relevant information needed to support the decision to be made, but also, more importantly, that they understand the context in which action is to be taken.

We saw earlier how our mental model acts as a filter for information and how we tend to focus only on those signals that support our view of how the world works. Each of us has a subtly different model and a different view of priorities and consequences. For effective decision making in a devolved environment, the leader must take action to align the mental models of the team. This deep-seated alignment requires more than a comprehensive set of operating instructions and it is certainly very much more than simply parroting a catchy vision statement or mantra.

Mental models are formed over time through a deep enculturation process, so it follows that any attempt to align mental models must focus heavily on collective sense making. Alignment only happens through a process of socialisation; people working together, solving problems together, making sense of the world together.

Figure 5: Aligning mindsets

When the leader works on Alignment, the emphasis has to be on actions that address how people See and Assess. Of the two, seeing is at the deepest cognitive level and it is often easier and, in the short term, more effective, to work first on trying to align the Assess function. The process of Assessing is essentially about deploying problem-solving techniques and frames of reference that we found have worked in similar circumstances in the past.

Steps to help with the alignment of the assess function

To help people align the way they assess situations and actions, the leader should therefore seek to put people together to focus on operational problems that are important to resolve, but do not submit to standard remedies. Ideally, the problems should be familiar in nature but perplexing in resolution. This sort of enquiry has become known as action learning, and is gaining significant popularity in organisations.

With regard to action learning, the leader’s role is to define the problem, provide information and access, listen uncritically to the new knowledge that is created from the process, provide resources to deploy, and leverage worthwhile solutions that emerge from the process. A typical action-learning group will go through the following steps:

1    Work as a small group (four to eight people) on a real work-related problem that needs a resolution

2    Question what is happening and why it is happening

3    Challenge conventional wisdom about cause and effect

4    Explore new relationships and ways of understanding the situation

5    Suggest potential solutions

6    Reflect upon what they have learned as a group and on the process of learning

7    Share insights and experience widely with fellow practitioners

8    Create new levels of practice.

Action learning helps people both to understand challenging problems and, perhaps more importantly, to understand how others see problems and why they take the actions that they do. As such, action learning is a highly effective tool for aligning the way groups of people assess situations. It is therefore a core building block of new levels of professional practice. The process tends to work best when supported by an experienced coach who can guide the participants through the steps outlined above. The role of the coach is very different to that of the leader. The coach is primarily concerned with the process of learning and encouraging the participants to break down the barriers that stop them learning. By contrast, the leader is focused on aligned action and the commercial exploitation of the new knowledge created.

In action learning, the leader’s role is one of questioning rather than telling, of listening rather than commanding, of providing enabling resources rather than structuring action. As new understanding and practice emerges, communities of practice can also play a vital role in sharing and disseminating practice into the organisation and the wider industry.

Steps to align the seeing function

Deeper alignment relies on helping people to See or perceive differently. The emphasis is on helping people to pay attention to stimuli that would otherwise go unnoticed. Essentially, there are two ways of shaking up the way we see.

1    We can use ‘what-if’-style management simulations to allow people to experience situations that otherwise would be too costly, time-consuming or dangerous to contemplate.

2    We can pose challenging questions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. This is the technique that underpins scenario planning, making managers think the unthinkable and devise ways of dealing with it.

To help achieve alignment of thought process, the leader should work on providing key personnel with opportunities to engage in both action learning and scenario planning around challenging organisational issues. Aligning thinking is a precursor to aligning action; interventions at this deeper cognitive level will produce longer-lasting and more effective results than concentrating on observable behaviours.

Congruence

Only a small part of communication rests in the actual words we speak; a very large part of meaning is construed through the way we say the words, our body language, and the context in which we receive the message. In addition, our strong mental models tend to make us blind to certain possibilities, and therefore we unknowingly engage in biased listening. Whenever we interpret information, we subconsciously access three filters based upon how we feel about the content, the information source and situation (or context) in which we receive the information.

In terms of content, we tend to place weight based upon factors such as:

•   emotional appeal

•   visual and aural appeal

•   uniqueness

•   brevity.

When assessing a source, we are most likely to look towards what we know of, or how we feel about, the sender. In doing so we are making judgements about factors such as their:

•   perceived expertise

•   power and/or influence

•   personal appeal or charisma

•   objectivity

•   impartiality.

Finally, the situation we find ourselves in also impacts how we perceive the message; here we are concerned with such matters as:

•   the perceived consequences, both personal and for our community

•   expectation

•   individual or group setting (we like to receive some messages personally and privately)

•   our personal comfort level (how what is being suggested chimes with our personal value set).

All of the above are assessed instantly and subconsciously, and this, when combined with biased listening and our predisposition to ignore certain signs, makes communication a hazardous activity. We need to add to all this that, even when a message does get through intact, everything can be undone if the communicator’s actions are seen to be at odds with their own message. We therefore place great emphasis on the need for Congruence.

To be congruent is defined as: ‘to be in agreement or harmony’. It is essential that our actions and our words are seen to be in harmony, to be congruent. This is always important, but particularly so when our message is about change and has a strong emotional impact. The Transformational Leader needs to be conscious of the impact of their own behaviour and actions in communicating; the leader must strive to ensure that their words and actions are congruent in nature, also that the course of action they are proposing is congruent with the espoused strategy and journey that has been set out in previous communications. Where multiple change initiatives are under way at the same time, we should seek to show how they are complementary and mutually supportive of the achievement of a desired outcome.

Co-creation

The idea of co-creation has been around for some time in the world of product development and R&D. Indeed, there are classic examples of co-creation, such as:

•   open-source software, particularly Linux

•   Lego’s® Mindstorms – robotic kits where the user community has hacked the firmware and software to achieve capabilities far beyond the original scope of operation.

Such developments are often termed external or open innovation. The fundamental premise is that, at any given time, the person who is best qualified to solve your problem probably doesn’t work for you, and maybe isn’t even in your industry. One of the challenges of open innovation is therefore to find ways of gaining access to shared resources from anywhere at any time. In new product development, co-creation efforts often focus on enlisting customers to work together with internal design teams to improve the product and the brand for the benefit of all customers. This is not about engaging the altruistic few but rather about tapping a broad wellspring of talent. Customers are willing to engage in co-creation efforts because:

•   they want to work with brands they know and trust

•   they like to be listened to

•   they enjoy the challenge of solving problems.

The solution that eludes you may be a really simple step for someone else who thinks and sees things differently, someone who makes different connections.

Yet co-creation is not just about product design – we should think about the principles and process of co-creation in relation to the way we construct internal processes and policies, the way we engage with our stakeholders to build new services and deliver benefit, and the way we engage with our peers to create new knowledge and understanding.

When a leader heads down the road of co-creation he/she needs to let go of some old certainties. First and foremost, co-creation depends for its existence on the ability to self-organise. The leader must trust the process, work to remove obstacles and balance the benefits of providing wide access to data and information that might otherwise have been commercially sensitive. Here are three things that we recommend the leader to focus attention on:

1    Inspire participation. Seek to provide an ‘igniting purpose’ – set a challenge or pose a question or task that would, if solved, produce a breakthrough level of service.

2    Connect creative minds. Remove barriers of access, especially to information. Seek relationships in similar industries and in universities. Look for examples in unexpected places. Don’t be tempted to try to exploit apparently good ideas too soon; allow the wisdom of crowds to show you where the gold nuggets lie. Follow where great minds go rather than trying to anticipate and point to where you think they should go.

3    Share results widely. When you get a winning idea, feed it back into the community so that people can reap the benefits of being early adopters and can help you both to build brand and to drive future enhancements.

Co-creation is an essential tool for the future-focused leader with an eye to increasing innovation. It helps us deal with the primary challenge of how we access the right resource when we need it for as long as we need it, and how we increase the leverage of our internal resources.

Engaged stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement, when done, is often viewed as a one-shot activity, usually at the start of a project or initiative. We strongly suggest that stakeholder engagement should be a deep and ongoing process. We have already seen that building relationships takes time and sustained effort; this is as true for business stakeholders as it is for personal contacts. The key components of a good stakeholder engagement strategy are:

1    clarity about desired outcomes

2    rigorous stakeholder identification and analysis

3    open information disclosure

4    continuous consultation

5    partner management and negotiation

6    feedback on progress and issue resolution.

Good stakeholder identification is essential. It is always a good plan to make a list of stakeholders and then plot them on a relationship map. We suggest that you put the issue or project at the centre of the map and show your own relation to the issue, and then map all the other known stakeholders. For simplicity, in our illustration below (Figure 6) we have shown them as Groups A to D. We also recommend that you indicate the strength and nature of the relationship by the density of the line joining the groups. A dotted line indicates a very tenuous relationship whereas a thick pipe indicates a long-term trust-based personal relationship.

Finally, it is important to recognise that stakeholder groups talk to each other; how they feel about an initiative may be impacted more by what they hear from other stakeholder groups than by what they hear or see from you. Try to estimate the nature of the connections between various stakeholder groupings and also plot these on your relationship map.

Figure 6: Building a relationship map of key stakeholders

In the example in Figure 6, we have an interesting situation where Group B has a strong relation to the issue at hand and also to Group D; unfortunately our own relationship with Group B is tenuous and we have only a weak relationship with Group D. Building simple relationship plots of this nature can indicate to us where we need to build relationships and how we can use allies to help with that process.

We cannot achieve anything on our own; relationships are the foundation of everything we do. The success or failure of our transformational efforts will rest entirely upon the networks of relationships we create and the strength of the trust-based bonds that we build. A good network of mutually supportive and committed stakeholders will overcome setbacks and accelerate the achievement of outcomes, but you should not just play the hand that you are dealt. When looking at the stakeholders in your initiative you should ask yourself the following questions:

•   Who do we need to involve?

•   What unique contribution can they make?

•   What are their core values and driving passions? How does this initiative play to those values and passions?

•   How do we engage them?

•   How do we keep them engaged?

•   What mutual commitments must we make to each other in the spirit of partnership? What guiding principles should govern our decision making?

Once we have a view of the dynamics of a stakeholder engagement plan we need to use our understanding of relationship-building and personality types to start to influence opinion. This process is as important in dealing with our direct reports and teams as it is with the broader stakeholder base.

Shared responsibility

Many leaders talk about creating wider involvement in direction-setting, or about increasing worker empowerment and devolving decision making, but few recognise that such wishes cannot be achieved whilst retaining all the old checks and balances. It is a truism that if you want others to change their behaviours you must first change your own.

Figure 7: Promoting shared responsibility

It is important to realise that when trying to foster shared responsibility, the initial focus for intervention is at the behavioural level; what people Do and the visible behaviours that are exhibited. This is an important starting point, but to anchor these behaviours over time, we need to find ways of working backwards; first to the deeper cognitive level of how we Assess and then into how we See.

Doing things differently

Start by making a list of the modified behaviours that you want to see in your team members. For instance, if you want them to be more innovative, your list might include some of the following (this is a starter rather than a definitive list):

•   contribute ideas

•   think through ideas in terms of cost, benefit, viability and fit with strategic direction

•   have confidence to present ideas to outsiders.

Or, if you want your team to take a more proactive approach to managing risk with regard to your operations, your list might look more like this:

•   think about the things that could get in the way of successfully delivering on our promises

•   quantify the potential impact if things do go wrong

•   start to recognise the trigger events that indicate that a known risk is happening

•   put in place actions now that would limit the impact should a risk trigger.

Once you have your list, it is important to recognise that some of the behaviours you desire may be simple and can be adopted quite quickly, whilst others require experience, self-confidence and practice. Restructure your list into three columns based on increasing time. For example, things that might reasonably be achieved in less than a month, things that could be achieved in two to three months and things that will take longer. Using our Innovative example from above, our restructured list might now start to look like this:

Less than one month

Two to three months

Beyond

Contribute ideas

Have confidence to present ideas to outsiders

Think through own ideas in terms of cost, benefit, viability and fit with strategy

Table 6: Action planning for behavioural change

We have started the list for you, but you may want to continue to develop this more fully.

Finally, you need to realise that if people are to start to exhibit these behaviours, you as their leader will need to change your own behaviour and be a positive role model. It is a fundamental truism that change must start at home – you cannot expect others to change their behaviour if your own is unchanging. You need to role model the required behaviours and demonstrate that you can change yourself. I once heard a senior leader explode with the phrase: ‘when are these turkeys going to get it that they have to change?’. The simple answer was: not until he could look in a mirror and see that he, too, looked and behaved a lot like a turkey.

To help understand what needs to be done, we suggest that you go back to the table above and add a further row below the existing content. This row should focus on your own behaviour. For every entry in the top row you should identify at least one thing that you must do to enable the behaviour to happen and to sustain it once it has started to happen. For instance, if you want people to contribute ideas you will need to be available, ask for opinions, listen, and avoid judgement and destructive criticism. As you start to complete the table it may start to look more like Table 7.

Less than one month

Two to three months

Beyond

Contribute ideas

Have confidence to present ideas to outsiders

Think through own ideas in terms of cost, benefit, viability and fit with strategy

Leader’s behaviours

Be available

Ask for opinions

Listen

Avoid destructive criticism

Create opportunities for them to run internal workshops

Allow time and space for discussion

Open doors to relevant people

Provide access to information rather than answers

Ask probing and reflective questions

Coach the use of analytical tools

Table 7: Mapping own behaviour to changes required of others

Reflect on the table above and work to expand it and your understanding of the factors involved. Recognise that different members of your team will be at different stages of development, so one size does not fit all as you work with individual team members. Understand also that this is just the first step to bringing about behavioural change; for the change to take root it needs to be congruent with the way in which people internally Assess and See.

Assessing things differently

As well as working on the things people do, the leader must also help them to See and Assess differently. The Assess function is to do with the way we deploy our mental tools to review situations and decide action. In order to help people anchor and sustain behavioural changes, the leader needs to put in place structures that enable people to reflect on why they do the things they do, and to work together to collectively make sense of their environment. To enable this process the leader may employ some of the following tactics:

•   Encourage people to think about how their new behaviour patterns fit with their personality preferences and style (this will be explored in greater depth in Chapter 8)

•   Get them to think through how their behaviours are likely to be viewed by people with different preferences and styles (this will also be explored in greater depth in Chapter 8)

•   Coach through reflective questioning, encourage them to evaluate their own performance by asking questions such as:

  What part of this task felt good, natural or enjoyable to you?

  What will you try to do more/less of next time?

  What could we have done that would help us to anticipate the occurrence of x when we take this course of action?

•   Provide opportunities for action learning (see the section on Alignment above).

As the leader becomes adept at leading through questions and modelling behaviours that are congruent with what they expect of others, their teams will see more meaning in their work and start to take collective responsibility for the outcomes of their efforts.

Self-selection

Have you ever wondered why some people appear to be brain dead between the hours of 9 and 5 when they are at work, but as soon as they go home they can become highly efficient and organised members of their community? Why can we not engage them at work, when they patently have great talents and a desire to make a difference? Part of the answer lies in the satisfaction that we gain from activities that we perceive to be meaningful, and the sense of purpose and self-worth that comes from developing ourselves and others. Management theory increasingly places stress on the value of intrinsic reward systems; that is, reward that comes directly from the engagement itself. It has been suggested that there are four sources of intrinsic reward:

•   meaningfulness

•   choice

•   competence

•   progress.

For the purposes of this short discussion we want to concentrate on choice and meaningfulness.

At first glance, the ability to exercise choice would appear to rely upon delegated authority, access to relevant information to make informed decisions, a clear understanding of intended outcomes and which actions are likely to impact most on the production of those desired outcomes, and the security to know that you are trusted to act in the best interests of the whole. These factors are fundamental to the ability to exercise choice, and we take these as our base-level expectation.

For us, choice has to go beyond mere choice in decision making, and should extend to teams selecting their membership, setting their own targets and, as far as is practicable, being self-managing. We also see choice extending into an element of volunteerism in deciding where to direct one’s efforts.

When you look at the common factors that highly innovative companies exhibit, they all find some way of encouraging their workers to experiment and follow interesting avenues and ideas that they feel passionate about, and they do this in company time using company resources. In extreme cases, organisations build this facility into their structure by allowing everyone up to 20% of their work time to devote to non-programmed work that they feel has winning potential.10 This is directly at odds with two core principles of hierarchical organisations as we know them:

1   the idea that the leader allocates resources and decides who should do what

2   that the people at the top are best placed to decide which initiatives are winners and, ergo, where we should direct our efforts.

Impressive results can happen when an individual is so passionate about an initiative that they organise themselves to investigate and develop a promising solution. How much more impressive if that same individual could convince others to invest their resources on his or her initiative, rather then their own; to do so would demonstrate both the exercise of choice and also self-selection – a case of the wisdom of crowds deciding what products are best to invest in rather than a hackneyed business-case generator.

We are not suggesting that it is either desirable or appropriate to try to emulate such open approaches to resource allocation. What we do stress is that if innovation is a priority for your company, you need to find ways to allow talented individuals to promote their ideas and to attract others into contributing their personal time, knowledge and credibility to develop these ideas from concept to deployable product or service. Enabling structures of this kind provide the most powerful of intrinsic rewards; they give meaning to individual activity, show trust in individual judgement, and value initiatives that are compelling enough to cause busy workers to volunteer their services to ideas that they perceive to have purpose and organisation value. In short, we are suggesting that mechanisms that foster self-selection are, in the long run, always more effective than mechanisms that favour centralised and impersonal appointment of resources.

Building the conditions that promote innovation

If the leader is successful in managing all six components of our ACCESS framework, he or she will have created a working environment that values individual contribution, encourages active involvement and collaborative working, and encourages commitment to common goals. This platform provides a basis upon which new levels of innovation and performance may be stimulated.

All organisations struggle with how to become more nimble and innovative. Conventional wisdom focuses on promoting and supporting a small number of smart, sometimes unconventional, workers who are looked upon as ideas people. However, increasingly, it is becoming apparent that the engine of innovation lies not in the heads of a few clever people, but rather in the spaces between clever and experienced people. Great ideas seem to stem from the interactions between people, and curve-jumping innovations are most likely to come when professionals from different disciplines or industries engage to synthesise existing wisdom into new knowledge. Engaging with people who see the world differently, solve problems differently, and have a different approach to what is possible, can bring a real freshness to the generation of ideas. Leaders should look for opportunities to expose their teams first to the operational environment of their customers, and then to the problem-solving and organisational structures of professions that have totally different values and working practices.

Recently, Lynda Gratton of the London Business School did some research on why some companies appear to be more innovative than others and why hotspots of innovation just appear spontaneously, flourish and then disappear only to be replaced by another hotspot in another area. Her work suggested that there are common environmental factors that, when present, tend to increase the likelihood of innovation hotspots emerging. Her work suggests that innovation is more likely when the following four conditions are in place:

1   A co-operative mindset exists

2   There is a widely understood igniting purpose. This could take the form of a task, a question or a vision

3   Opportunities for boundary-spanning exist. Professionals can interact with peers from other departments, disciplines, industries and cultures

4   There is the productive capacity to do what needs to be done.

In our ACCESS framework, Alignment and Congruence are fundamental to the ability to communicate an effective igniting purpose. Co-creation, Self-selection and Shared responsibility are essential components of creating a co-operative mindset. Stakeholder engagement is the first step in boundary-spanning, but, to be really effective, we need to also look for opportunities to experience fundamentally different working environments. We should also encourage our people to read widely from works in apparently unrelated disciplines as a means of gaining fresh insight and knowledge.

Key ideas from this chapter

In this chapter we have suggested relaxing the emphasis on command and control and on the leader as the director of activity, in favour of a leader whose focus is the creation of an environment where workers elect to invest their personal resources to achieve collective goals which they can feel part of and take pride in. Essentially, it is about creating an element of personal choice in where and how to invest effort, in valuing the power of networks rather than hierarchy. The Transformational Leader has to become adept at communicating in a manner that helps align individual mental models around a single world view. It is essential to provide an element of real choice in work assignment and self-management in teams; by doing so we foster commitment, increase meaningfulness and promote empowered action that leads to greater innovativeness and breakthrough thinking.

1

Work on the 6 elements of our ACCESS framework
Alignment
Congruence
Co-creation
Engaged stakeholders
Shared responsibility
Self-selection

2

Nothing can be achieved alone. All change is facilitated through networks of relationships. You cannot devote enough time to building and sustaining those key relationships

3

If you want others to change you must first change yourself. Once you have identified new behaviours that you want from others you must ask yourself what personal changes you will have to make in order to enable others to change their behaviours

4

A key tool for creating alignment is for the leader to provide an ‘igniting’ purpose. This can take the form of a question, a vision or a task (challenge)

5

One of the key enablers of innovation is ‘boundary-spanning’ – finding opportunities to see and experience how others think and act

Table 8: Five key actions to release the power of the many

Reflection

•   How well aligned is your team? When was the last time you provided an opportunity for them to learn together in the context of real work problems?

•   What steps can you take to ensure that your words, written communications, plans and actions are congruent?

•   What structures do you have in place to promote boundary-spanning in your team?

•   How many ideas come from outside your immediate IT management team?

•   When you have identified new needs, do you have a reliable way of finding the most able resource to work on that need? How can you ensure that you get the best resource wherever that resource resides?

•   What percentage of your solutions come from outside your own organisation? How can you encourage people who don’t work for you to contribute towards problem-solving or fulfilling your stated needs?

•   How do you really engage with all your stakeholders? Do you communicate at them or do you engage them in real dialogue?

•   Do your stakeholders spontaneously champion your ideas? Do they speak with the same sense of vision? Are their words and actions congruent with the direction you are striving for?

•   How can you create a mechanism where team members have an element of choice of projects in which to invest their personal resources?

•   Is it feasible for you to create an internal open market for ideas, where your workforce can virtually invest in those ideas that they feel are most likely to bring benefit?

•   Can you develop the structures you identified in the previous questions into an investment portfolio where your workforce can volunteer their services to develop new and winning ideas?

More food for thought

•   Kenneth W. Thomas, Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement, second edition, Berrett-Koehler (2009).

  Prime reading for any leader who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the power of intrinsic motivational factors.

•   Lynda Gratton, Hot Spots: Why Some Companies Buzz with Energy and Innovation and Others Don’t, Prentice Hall (2007).

  A chapter is devoted to each of the four conditions that increase the likelihood that spontaneous innovation will flourish in organisations.

•   Gary Hamel, The Future of Management, Harvard Business School Press (2007).

  A thought-provoking read that challenges the way we think about how and why organisations work and the changing role of the leader. Some great examples from a variety of industries of companies that dare to be different and the rewards they reap from their adventure.

10See Gary Hamel, The Future of Management, Harvard Business School Press (2007). This book gives many examples of how differing companies organise themselves to promote self-selection, innovation and discovery. Of particular interest is Chapter 5, a case study on the W.L Gore company.