I recently saw a TED talk where a well-known organizational behavior expert pushed my button. As a management consultant, his presentation made a lot of sense…not only for business but also for our complex, modern times.
Yves Morieux rightly pointed out (in my opinion) that we are all drowning in complexity. His main contention is that we spend way too much time doing, undoing, redoing in isolation. Even with the marvelous new technologies, we seem to be less productive and much more unhappy with our jobs. Basically, our organizational behavior is broken. Morieux felt the reason why so many workers are becoming disengaged is their frustration with burdens of complexity and the lack of job satisfaction due mainly to the need for a new way of structuring how we do business.
Traditional management theory expounds that companies need structures that clearly define the departmentalization of processes with specific job descriptions, areas of responsibilities and accountabilities (sound familiar?) According to Morieux’s point of view, the defined blocks of the organization is what creates the undue stress and loss of productivity.
Is the organizational structure broken?
Supposedly, the organizational structure promotes the smooth flow of cooperation between departments and the division of labor.
But according to Morieux, the structure can impede the smooth cooperation between departments.
Indeed, he believes that the best way to improve productivity is to do away with time-wasting meetings and “over-management” needed to promote and guide coordination. Instead, he promotes the idea that a better way is to make sure all staff involved in related processes-regardless of what box they belong in- fully understand what their colleges do as well as their constraints. This key factor helps to leverage staff skills, improve communication (without the need for management) and helps create those responsible for the production and allowing them to take ownership of projects. Indeed, the dynamic of knowing what others do and how they may help solve problems can help staff become more engaged and feel better about their jobs and job fulfillment.
Accountability turned on its head
Traditional organizational structures and defined methods of accountability is for management to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Morieux feels that a more enlightened way to create accountability is to employ a different philosophy. The theory is that employees are reprimanded if they don’t seek help with a problem. Before turning to management to help resolve problems, empowered staff should take the initiative to leverage the resources they know exist within the company. In other words, employees need to be encouraged to solve problems amongst themselves (given that they probably know more about the problem and potential solutions than does management) before turning to management for assistance on matters beyond the process required of the task. This approach to delegation has some important benefits for both the company and employees.
- Fewer middle management staff required.
- Employee job satisfaction, engagement and productivity-problem solving increases.
- Lower employee turnover costs.
- Better quality and less re-work cost.
- Improve the corporate culture and sense of personal responsibility.
Of course, you are probably running through your mind all the potential pitfalls of Morieux’s theory. My first thoughts were: “You really need to hire the right kind of people…and how do you determine those qualities?” Also, some business models are not conducive for this kind of less formal structure and philosophy. But, the idea of breaking down walls that divide and isolate, creating greater understanding, cooperation, and empathy may be something we need to do throughout our work-life experience.
What are your thoughts?