The Value Of Any Organisation Is In Its Sustainability. A business that cannot survive over the long term has no value. There are very few organisations which can boast continued success from the day it was launched to the present date. Most organisations had to go through a number of transformations over time to survive. Those who failed to review and adapt, were either bought out or shut down. The most well-known example is Lehman Brothers. The main lesson learnt is size does not matter when it comes to survival. Economies of scale if they can be achieved, eventually reach a point where they become counterproductive. According to Margaret Heffernan, “we need organisations that are robust, that can survive the vicissitudes of political, social and economic change. Expecting any organisation to be infallible is madness. What we want are organisations that are functional – but can fail safely.”
The belief that size makes you invincible has been disproved again and again. Yet, people continue to believe that there is safety in numbers and that scale commands respect. Large organisations lead to organisational complexity which makes it difficult for the company to fix itself. The voice of those involved in the operations or having proximity to the market is not heard and they are sometimes discouraged to provide feedback due to the steep hierarchies involved in those organisations. As a result, changes in the trends of the market are not taken into account in time so that the organisation adopts more of a reactive attitude rather than a proactive attitude.
For smaller organisations, succession planning is a typical challenge faced by most founders. Tackling succession planning at an early stage is recommended if you are looking to leave your business/organisation as part of the legacy for future generations or for society at large. It is challenging to create the right blend of people to succeed to the founder(s). Most owners of SME’s or of small charities would rather continue on their own than invest time, energy and money to building a team that will end up leaving them after a few years or that may not live up to their expectations.
According to Margaret Heffernan, collaboration is hard because so little in our culture trains, rewards or even seems to notice great collaboration. True collaboration is characterized by passionate curiosity, modest confidence and mild obsession. Creativity and innovation is derived from the careful nurturing of relationships and a commitment to the long term. Trust requires constant communication. There is a lot of give and take. The more power you delegate the more people feel they are empowered and as a result, they take ownership and will not let you down. What we need is to build the structures and processes, the habits and relationships that draw it out and make it grow.
Creativity clearly challenges the status quo and this is how new ideas and concepts emerge. You don’t learn when people tend to agree with you. You actually grow and learn when people challenge your beliefs and your way of doing things. It is then an opportunity for you to make your self assessment and learn from their point of view. Great leadership is not the result of the efforts of one single individual. It is the ability to acknowledge and integrate the contribution that each person brings to the team.
It is also important to bear in mind that the success enjoyed by most organisations is the result of inspired teams made up of highly collaborative and creative individuals. The CEO or leader of any organisation can be a great visionary and highly charismatic individual but it takes more than that to materialise the inspired vision into a positive contribution to the performance of the organisation or to society at large. The idea that only a great leader can lead an organisation to success is not realistic. There is neither a single hero who can master the complexity of the economic environment nor one single brain who can comprehend the amount of data required to be analysed to make the right strategic decision.
As Margaret Heffernan explains in her book, A Bigger Prize, managing an organisation is not the same as running the 100m sprint where athletes can focus on short term goals to achieve perfection. “A competitive mindset may help you hit achieve tomorrow’s sales target or get through the week’s call sheet but it is a terrible way to manage complex projects over the lifetime of a business”.
Organisations are set up to implement a series of ideas be it for profit or for the greater good of society. Ideas come from people and people provide ideas when they are inspired. People are inspired when they are able to mix work with pleasure. 100% focus on work only creates a tunnel vision that does not have the necessary diversity needed for a human brain to think outside the box. Corporate cultures that encourages their workforce to stay long hours – exceeding 40 hours a week are actually putting a limit to productivity, Research has shown that working long hours for a number of years tend to lead to more mistakes and therefore, more resources spent to clean up the mess.
When the workplace is all about individual performances – the heroic soloist, the team is focused on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies. People are encouraged to “play safe” leading to “people pleasing” attitudes rather than striving for excellence and creativity, stifling innovation – much needed for the sustainability of any organisation. Every person craves for a sense of belonging and connectedness and an environment conducive to collaboration fulfils this very need. Employee loyalty and commitment is not solely linked to financial remuneration but also to the desire to belong to a group which personifies the values that they cherish and uphold as part of their overall identity.
The bigger prize is a creative activity that everyone in the organisation can own. People tend to focus on the bottom line when in truth; it is the implementation of a series of winning ideas that make an organisation thrive. Also, the most successful organisation has an inclusive approach when it comes to ownership. Employees, who have proved their commitment, are invited to be part of the shareholding of the organisation. When you own part of the organisation, you want everyone to be at their best. “When anyone wins, everyone wins”.
The book: “A Bigger Prize by Margaret Heffernan” has been used as reference for the write up of this post.