Organizations these days are growing ever more complex—with the rise of matrix organizations, self managed work teams, and even Zappo’s holacracy– old management techniques just don’t work.
The dilemma: how do you provide enough structure to build responsive, innovative, yet productive teams while providing enough freedom that these teams don’t bog down under their own administrative weight?
One answer is to change how we think about structure. Rather than an all or nothing approach—we are either top-down traditional hierarchies or we are flat, matrixed collectives—we can try to find the sweet spot between these two extremes (leadership is all about finding the sweet spot between opposites—otherwise known as managing paradox).
The next time you are putting together a team or an organization, think about what needs to be loose, and what needs to be tight. For example, here at Luck, our values need to be tight. We use them to set expectations, to make decisions, and to identify what’s off limits. Other things, driven by standard practices, also need to be tight: IRS rules, accounting procedures, labor laws, that sort of thing.
Other stuff can be loose—how the work gets done, how we interact and communicate, some of our processes. We don’t have to manage everything to within an inch of its life; some things we can allow to flex and evolve. We can make space to innovate with our products and our customer experience; we won’t innovate when it comes to ethics and high standards.
The next team you put a team together, I challenge you to lead a discussion about what’s tight and what’s loose and see if you wind up with something more effective than a hierarchy, but not as scary as a holacracy.