Martin Haworth asked:
I’ve ummed and ahhed about the title for this topic, not wanting to cause offence. So if I do, I don’t mean to – the term “Chiefs and Indians” is a metaphor, not a culture statement, so bear with me, it will become clear.
In many, if not most, business cultures, we still have pretty much vertical structures of hierarchy. Yet there is value in moving right along from this ancient creaking model…
You start at the top with the best paid and end up with the humble worker at the bottom end. In larger organisations this can be eight, ten or more deep!
At the bottom you feel ‘done to’ at the top, you feel the ‘doer’ – a much more comfortable spot to be. Guess why!
Yet it need not be this way. Of course there are always going to levels of authority, but wise organisations can soften this with a level of democracy which enables even those at the very bottom of the chain, the ‘indians’ in the metaphor, to feel like ‘chiefs’, in how they input into the organisation.
You see, the distinction is almost all emotional. It’s about control of your own circumstances – and those circumstances are controlled, not surprisingly, by the chiefs, especially in unenlightened organisations.
And control is such an emotive place to be and so uncomfortable if you have little or none and are almost totally ‘done to’.
But what if an enlightened boss gave up some of the control, maybe even most of it, to those workers beneath. In fact by giving up much control, maybe they realise that control and input from the ‘many’ was better for all and would be a respected and valued (and valuable) place to go.
Bosses would become freer from day to day decisions, and their now co-workers, rather than ‘slaves’ would be more involved, more able to contribute with the richness of their own ideas and implementation skills. It would be radical, yet how valuable it would be, all round.
It doesn’t take much on the micro-organisational level. In fact it takes but one step.
Ask your people what ‘they think would work’. Get used to involving them in discussions and letting them have a free rein on the ideas and delivery, as long as the result is at least the one you need.
You might be surprised at how quickly they get the hang of it. In fact, you might be surprised at the results to your business, to your people and, not least, to you.