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If it’s going to happen, you need to take the lead

Straight to the point; I continue to list the pitfalls of failing to deliver with quality and efficiency, which Chalmers researcher Henrik Eriksson addressed at the Kommek conference the other week.

He listed five pitfalls that you just need to avoid:

  1. Not being driven by need and purpose
  2. Not having value-creating processes and networks
  3. Not leading
  4. Not being motivated
  5. Not to improve

In the two previous weekly letters I have described pitfalls one and two, and now it is time for pitfall three.

Not leading

What then can be meant by not leading? Well, unfortunately there is too much management and not enough leadership. As you may recall, I’ve mentioned before that there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader. Manager is a position in a hierarchical structure, while leader is someone somewhere who takes responsibility for the best interests of the business, whether in a formal role or not. To be a leader, you deserve it and you only become one when you have followers.

Here we must all dare to step in and be leaders. Not everyone will have followers, which means we’re not leaders either. As a manager, you need to make sure that you move more towards leading the business forward in a way that people voluntarily follow you, not just do what you say because you are the manager.

There are many great leaders who also happen to be managers, where employees have an open relationship with them and are not cowering under the hierarchy.

I follow you because I like you and your thoughts, not because you happen to be my boss.

Demand for initiative, really?

I hear many times that people are asking for more initiative in their activities. For that to become a reality, we also need to have an organisation that supports initiative and free thinking.

You can’t have an organisation where your ideas need to be filtered through the manager who decides whether they should be done or not, but you need to have a bigger ground for ideas than having one person standing there as a “gate keeper”.

It is not uncommon that organisations are not really built to take advantage of innovative and creative ideas. If the organisation is a bureaucracy striving for the status quo, then innovative and creative ideas are only disruptive and disrupt the otherwise stable relationship.

So if you demand innovation and creativity, then you also need to be prepared for disorder and temporary chaos as these ideas emerge and are processed. This does not mean that the way ideas are handled cannot be structured, on the contrary, but there will always be an impact on existing activities when proposals for change come forward.

Positioner → Roller

What if there was no need for a manager at all? Would it work for you? No bosses?

The idea boggles the minds of many I talk to. “What would it look like if no one decided?” And that’s where you go wrong in thinking. Not having a boss does not mean not having someone in charge.

In a hierarchical organisation, there is a series of managers, from the top down to the second lowest level, all of whom are in charge to different degrees and for different things. These are different positions or positions. But what if instead you had well-developed roles in the organisation, which followed your value creation flows.

Then there would be roles within the different processes that would make the decisions that were needed on an ongoing basis in the work. One of the nice things about roles is that they can be played by several people, as long as they have the right skills to perform the role’s tasks.

Thus, decisions are made in a structured way in each process by the role(s) acting there.

There are a number of organisations, such as healthcare company Buurtzorg or grocery chain Wholefoods, that lack managers. And they’re not small businesses either. Buurtzorg is more than 15,000 people, but no managers, but is self-managed in teams where well-defined roles act.

The same goes for Wholefoods Market, with 91,000 employees.

These and others I usually tell you about in our training courses in improvement work. There is a lot to learn from the successes of others. For that matter, the failures of others. Are you interested in our courses? Check out our website where these are described. Further training courses will be added shortly.

Wishing you a nice autumn week,