The underlying killer of accountability


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“We need more accountability around here” Chloe said.

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“You know, people caring, people hitting their marks, doing what they said they would.  You know, being accountable” she replied with a slight tone of ‘what is wrong with you’.

“Like you do?” I asked

“Do you think I don’t” was the quick reply.

“No, not that at all, sorry” I immediately answered.  “I meant that question literally, you mean you’d like people to care about the place like you do as the CEO?”

“Well…..yeah.  That would be great!”

“So why don’t they?” I asked.

Chloe laughed – “I thought that’s what you were here to fix”.

I didn’t laugh at all.  I looked straight into her eyes.

“No.  This is what you have caused.  So it’s what you are here to fix”.

The pause was somewhat awkward.

“OK….I get it.” she said.  “So what can I do?”

“The word I use for what you’re looking for is ‘ownership’”.  I said.  “You want people around here to act like it’s their place.  Like it’s their money.  Like owners”.

“Yep, that pretty much it”. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

What Exactly Is The Strategy Role?

Santos and Josh know strategy

Santos and Josh know strategy

(This one’s a longer read, perhaps save it for later or have a read at home.  Cheers, Adam)

Hey Adam,

Wondering if you can help me – my organisation has created a Strategy role and put me in it. I’ve got some generic KRAs, but a lot of room to design my own ‘value-add’. Would appreciate your view on what you see the value of such a role is.

OK, let’s talk about what the role isn’t to start with.

The strategy role is not there to take sole accountability for delivering strategy!  

Do not take on this accountability alone, either explicitly, or implicitly. It’s going to be tempting as you’re going to want to show that you’re valuable, and the core areas will gladly hand you accountability for the future to get it off their plate! It will seem like a win/win, but this degenerates into a lose/lose every time as you’ll be crying “no one here thinks of the future”, they’ll be crying “Strategy doesn’t understand I’ve got real numbers to hit here”, and the CEO will be crying “why can’t we all just get along!”

Strategy is delivered by those that either currently make or do the things customers use, or by new areas that will make or do the things customer use in the future. In other words, strategy is ultimately delivered by Sales and Operations areas (whatever you call them),even in you are involved along the way.  Not you on your own.

What Strategy Is There To Do

So if Strategy doesn’t deliver strategy on it’s own, what does it do?

It ensures both the happening of, and the quality of, the conversations necessary to both develop and implement strategy that will see the organisation continue to be both valuable and viable in it’s community.

Don’t get fooled by the simple sentence – the more simple and straightforward the sentence, the more complex and involved the actual execution (‘land someone on the moon and bring them back safely by the end of the decade‘….simple right?). These conversations are why you exist, but getting them happening requires you to do the following:

Take The Mystery Out Of Strategy. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

“You can’t talk to my people” is NOT Requisite!!!

Exit Sign

Question

I’ve heard that principles of Requisite Organisation mean that people can’t talk to people in other teams without checking with the manager first.  This seems to be against all modern ways of working together as an organisation, so just wanted to check in with you as I know you are an expert in this model.

Answer

I’m very glad you checked.  First principles, ‘Requisite’ means ‘what is required’ and in our model, which we call Requisite Enterprise as it uses these principles among others, it’s about designing and leading work so it’s fulfilling for customers, employees, beneficiaries and the planet.

This means that a way of working that causes frustration and disintegration of relationships is never going to be requisite in our model.  Saying ‘you can’t talk to them without checking with me first‘ is therefore obviously not part of what we teach in our workshops and online.

The Managerial Relationship

But…we can acknowledge where this comes from.  We use the Elliott Jaques idea of making managers accountable for their teams serving their customers (internal or external), and so give managers the authority to ultimately decide the way ‘work works’ and who does what in their area if that’s required.  This is called authority to ‘assign’ work.  And we describe the relationship between Managers and the team members using the Jaques term ‘Task Assigning Role Relationships’ or ‘TARRs’.  (BTW…we insist that before decisions managers also get the input of all those effected as an absolute minimum)

It is, however, a mistake to therefore think that this authority to ‘assign work’ means ‘a person may only do work directly assigned by their manager’, or even further ‘only the manager may talk to this person about work’. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

A Talk – Designing for Quality Leadership

Adam ACSA May 2017

Something different this time around – a talk!  I spoke recently at the Leadership, Culture and Governance Symposium put on by Aged & Community Services Australia in Adelaide.

The topic – Designing for Quality Leadership   The point?  Leadership depends as much on your organisational design as it does the people in the jobs, so….stop fidgeting and start building something! 

Click here to watch.  Goes for about 40 minutes, and sorry about the hissing at the start – that blissfully goes away at 4:15.

It’s the stuff we teach in detail in our workshops and our online learning so you can design departments and enterprises where people can do great work.

And…if you’d like to see what was on the screen, or want the super-quick version,  click here to see the slides.  I’ve written short explanations on many of them so they make sense even without the presentation itself.

Feel free to download and distribute the slides to those who might be interested if you think it might help create a conversation that makes your place better.

Thanks to Derek Dittrich from ACSA and Tim Levett for the video production.

As always, if there is anything I can help with, just let me know.

Cheers!

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Cross-functional work – a method for getting it sorted

Sydney-Harbor-Bridge-SilhouetteQuestion:

I was wondering if I might be able to seek your guidance on sorting out cross-functional relationships.  Is there a process you suggest we follow so we can really sort ourselves out so we can be a better organisation for both customers and employees?

Answer

Very glad you asked – getting clear in this area is about not forcing people to rely on favours and politics to get their basic work done.  It’s a service to our fellow humans!

Cross-functional roles, or ‘Task-Initiating Role Relationships’ (TIRRs) as Elliott Jaques referred to them are how work gets done.  We tend to to see the org chart as reality, when it’s actually just a visual representation of who reports to who, and what each person is there to deliver.  In reality all work is passed on to someone, either internal or external – so all work is some sort of flow, which means…it mostly goes across.

This means that it’s one of the fundamental accountabilities of every manager to set up how work ‘works’ in their area.  And a crucial part of this is the TIRRs.

So how do we do this?  First we start with WHO.

We teach in our workshops and our online learning that Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

You already know how to get your organisation to work

You know this isn't healthy right?

You know this isn’t healthy right?

First it was no fat.  Then it was no carbs.  Now it’s no sugar.

If you want to be healthy, you already know what to do.  You know what good food is, or at least you know what bad food is.  And you know you should go for a walk.  Or a run.  Or something involving a little sweat.

It’s not complicated.

But it’s not easy to do is it?  Which is why the raft of quick-fix, follow-this-easy-plan diets continues to proliferate, why we live under the illusion that if we find the right magazine article we will magically reach a healthy weight and why we see people in the aisles of the supermarket squinting at lamingtons to check the sugar content!

Eat more fruit & veg.  Eat less pies.  Go for a walk.

Simple.  But it takes discpline.

 

First it was strategy, then it was reengineering.  Then it was lean and six sigma.  Now it’s innovation and complexity. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Five Decisions: The Simple Way To A Better Organisational Design

Number Plate

Lots of organisational design ideas out there.  The urge to play with levers has never been stronger, CEOs are answering surveys saying ‘organisational design is the most important thing’, and the last decade has even seen the sallow colour of Teal become some sort of top o’ the hill aspiration.

Which is just strange.

So let’s make sense of it and make it simple (remembering that simple and easy are not the same….).  Whichever way we do it, we need to organise ourselves so we can:

  1. Decide what to do right now, in the present conditions, looking at actual reality….so the customers being served get what they were promised.
  2. Decide any changes that need to be made to the tools, support, technology configurations, skills, guidelines so the above decisions are easier and better and don’t cost us the earth.
  3. Decide what changes to the way the whole network is put together will let us do things better now, or move to doing those new things we decided.  By network we mean suppliers, different teams, different technologies, support areas – all the things that combine to create what the customers get.
  4. Decide what different futures to invest significant time and resources into so we can continue to be viable, valuable and provide gainful employment.  Note: these decisions are best made with information gained from experiments or pilots…hence the needed innovation movement.
  5. Decide the fundamental value or purpose for the wider community behind all of this and how we will be organised so we can stay connected and see that purpose actually happen.

As you read through these five decisions, you’ll see each decision is supported by the next one. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Getting Real About Freedom

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There’s a huge confusion that’s causing a lot of pain in organisations.  It’s the idea that ‘freedom‘ means ‘freedom from consequences‘.  It doesn’t.  It means ‘you get to choose, and the consequences are yours‘.

Freedom is not liberty or licence.  It’s not escape.  A person becomes free when they are willing to stand up and say ‘this is my situation, I am taking ownership of it, and of whatever happens next.’  The moment this occurs, choice comes back into play.  The boat gets a motor.  The hot-air balloon’s fire-thing starts up again.  We have agency, and it feels good.  Energy.

This is the principle we use when we help our clients with how their organisations are designed and lead….that people want freedom.  They want choice.  They want a level of challenge that pushes them without blowing their minds.  And they would like to know how things work so they can make more informed choices.

Leaders at all levels have the opportunity to give people freedom.  But it’s not always taken.  It’s hard to trust, and decades of high control leading to unaccountable behaviour simply reinforces this, and it’s not just the managers.

So how do we create freedom?

Through conversations and other communication that creates clarity for all on who is delivering what, and how roles fit together.  And decisions when decisions are required so people can get on with it.

People cannot make choices about their own way to get things done if they don’t know what ‘done’ is or how things work.

But above all, this requires a willingness to trust again.  This is the hardest part, and it applies to everyone.  For managers, it’s trust that people will take ownership.  And for employees, that their managers will let them take ownership.  This is the foundation of any successful enterprise.

Clarity and trust.

Pre-requisites for freedom.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Want change? Meet people where they’re at.

Stability fans

Stability fans

People can change.  If they want to.  You can’t make them.

And there’s one way to definitely make them NOT want to change – assume that they are you and act accordingly.

It’s not uncommon for ‘traditional’ organisations to choose a dynamic CEO to ‘shake things up’ who then chooses Executives who get things done.  And this is great because we need to get things done.

And it’s going to work in an organisation or department filled with achievers and overachievers who are hanging for the chance to ‘show what I can do and to hell with the rest of em‘.

Here’s the thing though…many people might choose to work in such ‘traditional’ organisations because they want to be a) part of something stable that b) serves other people and/or the community.  Which means taking a megaphone and shouting ‘we need to achieve, we can be #1‘ as the driving force is simply not going to connect.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just not going to connect.

What does connect?  Well, not shouting for a start.  What connects to this group is creating stability.  And for this group stability is what gets things done.

I can feel the reeling back in horror at the idea of creating stability in this apparently complex, volatile, ever-changing and connected world.  But I didn’t say ‘rigidity’.  I said ‘stability’, which can be defined as ‘the strength to endure’.

And if your people need strength to endure what’s coming….start where people are at.  Which means if large groups of your people value the work because it’s stable and provides connection….then start there.  Tell people the truth, deliver the news, then make things more stable.  Settle things down, make jobs clear, sort who does what with who, connect what’s required to the future conditions you’re going to be in and get the damn systems working!

Because starting where you’re at, rather than where they’re at is going to lead directly to disconnection.

And no megaphone is loud enough to get disconnected people moving, no matter how dynamic the wielder.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Board too risk-averse for innovation? Then bark up this tree…

The first job of a Board is to make sure the organisation continues to be viable.  And if you’ve been good in the ‘Added-Value Domain’ for a while (the work domain that’s about constructing the networks, systems and everything else required to deliver value to customers today and tomorrow)…it’s going to take a lot to start messing with that.

And so it should.  If the magazines Science or Nature allowed any old idea to get published…credibility of the whole science profession takes a nose-dive.  You’ve got to prove yourself before we start changing the laws of nature!

But as we also know, eventually what we produce in the Added-Value Domain is going to have to change as values change….and the connection comes from what we call the Innovation Domain of work.  The point of this work is for values and trends to be revealed in decisions to provide fundamentally new value to possibly new clients.

It’s different to the Added-Value Domain….but ends up in the Added-Value Domain.

(If you’d like to read more on these Domains, check out Luc Hoebeke’s wonderful work Making Work Systems Better)

Here’s the trick – the attributes of good work in the Added-Value Domain are fundamentally different to that in the Innovation Domain.  But if we don’t see this, and in particular, if we present information to Boards using the same criteria for both Domains….we are automatically set up for ‘no’.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.