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.



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

close slider

    Subscribe to the InnerWill email for inspirational stories and tips on how to build engagement, trust, and success at work and beyond – delivered right to your inbox every Monday morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.