Cut the Red Tape

Volume 17 Letter 3

Ever been bogged down by the pace of bureaucracy? Many companies make themselves less effective by instituting too many internal rules and procedures in a vain attempt to keep the company on its strategic course. In today’s world where disruption is the norm and employees have access to market information via a smart phone, this type of ‘Command and Control” business model is fast becoming redundant. Here’s why…

The “Command and Control” ideology perpetuates the belief that only the leaders can make good decisions. Think back to big pharma in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. They were banging out blockbuster products at a steady pace. Managers gave reps a uniform script to recite to physicians and territories were sliced evenly like pieces of pie paying no attention to any criteria other than bodies per square mile.

One company eventually broke the mold. Regional teams were trained in strategy development and each team factored in disease prevalence, race, and other socio economic elements tailoring their strategies to the regions and territories they served. Within a year, profits doubled even though head count dropped 20%. In the past, uniform command and control may have been effective but today this type of decision-making power grab alienates teams, crushes growth and ultimately destroys value.

Authors De Souza, Kauffeld and Van Oss provide an alternative to a “command and control strategy” that they call “collective mastery”. This is when everyone is tuned into the strategy and functional specialists understand how to make the strategy work. They describe it as a “state you reach when communication is fluid, open, constant” and I would add to that, boundaryless. Collective mastery encourages risk taking, not because mistakes are wanted but because they are part of the learning process. Procedures and systems are only used when they add value and quickly discarded when they don’t.

Why collective mastery is important to you is because it means your company can adapt quickly to new market demands. When the goals and strategy are universally understood, as in our example above, team members stay focused on delivering results.

So how do you get there? This is where business simulations are useful. A simulation quickly develops your team’s strategic planning and execution skills so individuals can work across organizational boundaries with a high level of trust. Even those who hold different perspectives (Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Finance) can understand others’ thinking so the team quickly comes to a collective decision that best serves the customer.

In today’s world where disruption is the new norm, companies can’t afford the time or expense of operating in a command and control environment. As Darwin so aptly told us “It’s not the strongest of species that will survive nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change”. Teams that have developed a collective mastery of strategy quickly adapt to market changes and deliver results! So……..when are you going to train up your team, develop collective mastery and cut the red tape?

More reading: 10 Principles of Strategy through Execution by I. de Souza, R. Kaufeld and D. van Oss from Strategy and Leadership Spring 2017 Issue 86

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