Don’t Get a Huge Hierarchy or a Big Fat Flat

So organizations are a funny thing.


Too hierarchical and you can get lost in the maze of corner offices.


Too flat, and there is no one to make a darn decision. 


Huge hierarchies can be costly and inefficient, but flat as a board organization are mob rule.


I think there has got to be a happy medium.


– One, where there is leadership, accountability, a reasonable span of control, and room for professional growth. 


– Two, where there is dignity and respect for everyone, and your tile and level doesn’t make any difference in terms of having your voice heard and being able to make a difference. 


Hierarchies that reach to the pompous sky and flat organizations where all the air is let out and nothing can get done are those that need to be hailed away in a big menacing orange wheel lock.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Are The Working Class

So I like to speak with people about their lives.


Today at breakfast, there was a gentlemen working the egg bar making omelettes for people.


Recognizing him, I said “You’ve been here a number of years?”


He responds, “Yeah, but I want to leave here!”


I was sort of taken aback at his bluntness, and inquired further, “Why, is everything okay?”


He goes, “Not really. They’ll only give me work 6 to 7 hours a day, and I can’t make a living on 32 hours a week!”


I asked innocently, “Do you have a second job or something?”


He says, “No, this is it,” and proceeded to make the next person’s omelette.


Feeling sort of shitty bad for him…


Another lady who works the tables says to us: “I won’t be seeing you.”


I ask, “Why–are you off the next few days?”


She says, “No, I don’t come back until next Saturday–I only work the weekends here, and somewhere else on weekdays.”


Wondering about this, I say: “So you work 7 days a week?”


She answers, “Yes, year-round!”


After we said goodbye until next time, I looked at my wife grimacing that this women has to work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, just to earn a basic living.


I’ll tell you the system is broken.


Shareholders and corporate chieftains squeeze profits and earnings per share out of their companies while the workers can barely get by.


The workers are not part of the companies they labor for–they are merely hired hands who will be replaced in a moment by another minimum wage worker if they but open their mouths to protest one word.


Slavery did not end in building the Great Pyramids of Egypt or in the plantations of the South–the average worker is still just a slave.


Employee engagement and development and “Human Capital” are terms organizations use to make themselves and their workers believe that there is real caring and unity going on.


But we know the truth by how people are treated with harshness, disrespect, disdain, and even abuse–sexual and otherwise!


Yeah, are you really valued or are you a wage slave showered with empty platitudes of unity and caring.


Real leadership is genuine compassion, empathy, and helping people both inside and outside the organization–not just a guise, disguise, mask for making just another dollar cracking the whip on the backs of the underclass.


All people are important.


All people deserve a living wage.


All people are entitled to work with dignity and respect.


All people need to be apart of a system that is fair and equitable.


Care for your brothers and sisters for one day you will be called before them in the court of Heaven and they will speak the final truth to power. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hate Proliferates

Supremists.jpeg

I was really surprised to see this sign for White Supremacists right in front of our nation’s Capitol like this. 


Identity Evropa is yet another hate group–this one focuses on people of European ancestry and their website claims, “We are the future.”


But whether you come from Europe or Asia, the Middle East or Africa, America or the moon, aren’t we all just people at the end of the day.


Who cares whether your black or white or yellow or brown, or what religion you practice, or your gender, or sexual orientation, or whether you lean left or right. 


At the end of the day, are we all not flesh, do we all not bleed, have we all not hopes and fears, do we all not answer to the one G-d Above. 


Hate proliferates from our farm belts to our inner cities, from our universities to our board rooms, from the gazillionaire to the guy who has to shovel shit for a living, from our nasty national politics to the United Nations, there is plenty of hate and bias and bigotry to go around. 


Look to the Heavens, cry a bitter tear, your hatred is your self-destruction. 


You will pray with an evil and hate-filled heart and none will answer you. 


The living G-d of Hosts who created us and loves all his children will not stand idly as hate and supremacy of one over another presides. 


The chains of our affliction, the bullet to the back of the head, the noose and the death camps, the whip, the gas, and the ovens, the hunger, the sick experiments, and the slave labor.


Only G-d is supreme over all and those that seek an advantage on the backs of their brethren will find themselves a fiery hell to contend with. 


From just a little gnat to a growing tumor–that is all that it takes to bring justice and re-level the supremacy playing field and teach who is the King of Kings and there is no other. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Rejuvenate Like A Starfish

Good video on centralization vs. decentralization.

A spider is the model of a centralized organism or organization–cut of the head and the thing is dead.

But a starfish is the epitome of one that is decentralized–if you cut off one of the arms (it doesn’t have a head) of a Blue Linckia starfish, it just grows another one. And if you cut off all five arms, it grows five new starfish.

So when it comes to organizations, do you want one like a spider, where all power, decision-making, and talent is concentrated at the top, and if you lose your senior executive(s), you’ve lost the innovation or operational effectiveness of the entire organization (think what happened when Apple lost Steve Jobs as an example)?

Or do you want to be an organization that is more decentralized (less hierarchical) like the Starfish–where talent is widely dispersed and work is delegated to the many within. Here the organization’s very survival is not threatened when something happens at the top or to somebody.

In most cases, there is no perfect spider or starfish organization, but more of a hybrid model, where some functions (like HR, finance, communications) are centralized and others are decentralized (based on specific business expertise).

To me the main point here is that an organization is made up of many individuals, and everyone in the organization is valuable; no one person can do everything and we should leverage each person according to their strengths and help them on their weaknesses. This gives each individual and the organization the best chance of rejuvenation and survival. 😉

Following The Guy In Front Of You Over A Cliff

Ira Chaleff speaks about his book The Courageous Fellowship.

After seeing holocaust survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms from the horrors of the concentation camps, Chaleff asks “How does this happen?  How do people follow murderous leaders?”

In response Chaleff comes up with the five dimensions to follow courageously:

Courage to assume responsibility–don’t expect your leader to provide for you, but you act for the common purpose that you both serve. (as John F. Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”)

Courage to serve–recognize the tough job of leadership and help to unburden and support the leader so he/she can be successful.

Courage to participate in transformation–become full participants in the change and transformation process; ask what you can do differently to improve.

Courage to constructively question and challenge–when policies and behaviors are counterproductive, step up and voice discomfort and objection.

Courage to take moral action–in rare, but needed circumstances, you must be willing to dissent, leave, or refuse to obey a direct order when it is unethical or illegal.

I greatly appreciate Charleff speaking out and teaching others to do so and calling for all to “act as principled persons with integrity.”

Charleff see leaders and followers less in the traditional hierarchical model and more as partners in achieving a common purpose–and this flattening of the hierarchy enables followers to question, challenge, and dissent when the boundaries of integrity are violated.

While I too believe we must serve courageously and not just follow blindly–as one of my teachers used to say, “if the car in front of you drives off a cliff, are you just going to follow him?”–I am not sure that Chaleff fully addresses the challenges and complexity in what it means to “step out.”

While we may like to envision a flat organization structure, the reality in most organizations is that there is a clear hierarchy and as they say, “the nail that stands out, gets hammered down”–it is not easy to challenge authority, even though it can, at rare times, be necessary.

Finally, while Charleff focuses primarily on speaking up when there is a moral issue at hand, I think it is important to also be forthright in everyday issues and challenges that we confront.

Being good at what we do means that you don’t just participate in leaderthink or groupthink, but you think on your own and share those thoughts earnestly.

However, once the decision is made–as long as and only when it is moral–then you must serve and support that decision and help make it as successful as possible.

Leaders and followers are a team and that means having the courage to fully participate and having the humility to respect chain of command and serve a noble mission, appropriately.

>No Ego Leadership

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It’s funny that we get so used to the way things are in our country and culture that it becomes difficult to think there is any other workable way of doing things.

The New York Times, 14 February 2010, has an interview with Vineet Nayar the CEO of HCL Technologies, a global services 100 IT company based in India and ranked by Hewitt Associates in the 30 best employers in Asia.

However, reading the interview from the CEO of this Indian company opens up broad new possibilities for the way we can conduct our organizational affairs and perhaps become more competitive in the 21st century, global market-place.

No single country, industry, company, or person has a monopoly on innovation, and we can learn from some of the outside the box thinking at HCL.

Here are some of Mr. Nayar’s thought-provoking leadership ideas:

Subject

Key Idea

Role of CEO

“My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to what they do well. It’s part of our ‘Employees First’ philosophy.”

Delegation

We “make sure everybody understands that the CEO is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees openly.”

Transparency

“All HCL’s financial information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all our dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions.”

Hierarchy

“We’ve inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.”

Performance

My [the CEO’s] 360 degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees—the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results—they’re anonymous so that people are candid—are available in the internal Web [as well].”

Information-sharing

We started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which mean yours subordinates will review it. You managers will read it. Your peers will read it and everybody will comment on it.”

Feedback

Prospective employees will say “I completely disagree. And they will have a fight with me… I want people who will kick my butt on points where we disagree.

Learning

I want people to say they want to learn. I don’t want teachers.”

At first glance, the ideas of Mr. Nayar seem almost crazy, because they are so different from what we are used to. But upon deeper reflection, we can see value in much of his leadership style.

To me, this seems a testament that when a leader has no ego and is willing to think innovatively and behave with integrity, the possibilities for positive change is not bound by any box or paradigm. We need to realize that we can learn from everybody, everywhere, and with an open mind and of course some discretion, we can progress our thinking and ways of doing business in ways we may never have even imagined.

>Conflict Management and Enterprise Architecture

>What is conflict?

In the book Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan, the author states “Conflict arises whenever interests collide…whatever the reason, and whatever form it takes, its source rests in some perceived or real divergence of interests.”


Why does conflict occur?


Morgan continues: “People must collaborate in pursuit of a common task, yet are often pitted against each other in competition for limited resources, status, and career advancement.”

How does conflict manifest?


The conflicting dimensions of organization are most clearly symbolized in the hierarchical organization chart, which is both a system of cooperation, in that it reflects a rational subdivision of tasks, and a career ladder up which people are motivated to climb. The fact is there are more jobs at the bottom than at the top means that competition for the top places is likely to be keen, and that in any career race there are likely to be far fewer winners than losers.”


How does User-centric EA help Manage Conflict?


Enterprise architecture is a tool for resolving organizational conflict. EA does this in a couple of major ways:

  1. Information Transparency: EA makes business and technical information transparent in the organization. And as they say, “information is power”, so by providing information to everyone, EA becomes a ‘great equalizer’—making information equally available to those throughout the organization. Additionally, by people having information, they can better resolve conflict through informed decision-making.
  2. Governance: EA provides for governance. According to Wikipedia, “governance develops and manages consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility.” As such, governance provides a mechanism to resolve conflicts, in an orderly fashion. For example, an IT Investment Review Board and supporting EA Review Board enables a decision process for authorizing, allocating, and prioritizing new IT investments, an otherwise highly contentious area for many sponsors and stakeholders in the organization.

Conflict is inevitable; however, EA can provide both information and governance to help manage and resolve conflict.