Jacob Morgan writes:
The first and most important truth any leader must understand is that the human beings who work inside every kind of organization possess unlimited potential. They have the ability to solve any problem and the adaptability to respond to unforeseen circumstances. It may be the most overworked truism in the business world, but employees are indeed the most valuable resource and asset that any company has.
Organizations and their leaders must strive to break three common boundaries in order to unleash all of the talent and contribution lying in wait. The first is role-based: communication and collaboration is restricted by seniority level. How could a lowly entry-level employee possibly engage with a senior manager or worse… an executive! The second type of boundary is around departments and function. Marketing folks stick with their peers in marketing, sales with sales, product development with product development and information and potential opportunities for innovation remain stuck within silos. The third most common type of boundary is geographic—employees in one office or location simply don’t “see” their peers in another.
Jacob provides three approaches that help to remove these three barriers. As GrantTree grows, the question of how to arrange its internal structure and culture is deeply fascinating to me. If you’re an early founder, pre-revenue, pre-employees, ignore this stuff for now. If you’re at the stage we’re at, though, you’ll probably find this very interesting and relevant.
For GrantTree, the way we’re solving the first problem is:
- everyone is involved in running the company;
- Directors are stewards rather than hierarchical superiors;
- roles are not strictly limited so people can get involved in whatever they think is helpful for the business and of interest to them.
This coincides well with Jacob’s first tool: moving from management to leadership. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s one of the ways I described the shift to open allocation for directors, to the company.
The second problem is being solved by:
- tweaking the pay structure until there is no clear separation between roles and people can naturally shift around the company;
- full open allocation, eventually, if we can make it happen;
- full transparency about pretty much everything;
- deliberate, consistent attempts to blur boundaries.
This matches very well with Jacob’s third idea, “From controlling management to boundary-breaking work”.
Finally the third problem we’re attempting to solve with tools like HipChat. We only have one remote employee at the moment, so it’s not a huge problem, but I really feel like we’re only 5% of the way there. Luckily, I’m addressing that by talking to people (for example, I’ll have a chat with Joel Gascoigne of Buffer, a fully, globally distributed young company, tomorrow), and hope to make some progress on Jacob’s second idea, which involves focusing on open, collaborative technologies. Currently, for us, that means HipChat and Dropbox, mostly.