Corporate management and leadership styles have developed over the last 30 years. Companies have moved away from hierarchical structures and cultures and towards flatter, more accessible ones.
Examples of this are the now common place all hands meetings, where senior leaders take time to engage with their teams and communicate the context in which the company is operating in. It is widely considered helpful, to share strategy, financial performance and operational challenges with your team even when it isn't directly relevant to their day job. It all comes back to the importance of purpose, popularised by Simon Sinek's "Start with the Why" challenge.
I recently came across an inspiring story, from a Glaswegian ship yard, where a welder submitted an idea into a corporate ideas suggestion programme and quite simply, he asked why ship’s hulls weren’t assembled upside down to avoid having to weld overhead. This led to significant safety, productivity and quality improvements which has led to the approach becoming an industry standard of modern ship building.
For me this greatly speaks to the importance of giving your whole team access to all the information and insights that they need to fully understand your business context and to have the communication channels to hear what they have to say.
All hands meetings, PowerPoint presentations, speeches and team emails are all great. However, they are still typically very structured and not very frequent. What if employees had a weekly, daily, hourly snapshot of how the enterprise was performing.
It is also well researched that creativity comes in bursts at very specific times for different individuals. The likelihood that this coincides with the timings of an all hands and that information being at the forefront of an employees mind when they become creative is slim.
It is common place in a factory to have overhead Realtime OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency) boards flashing red and green. There is a widely held belief that measuring and making people accountable will lead to management performance and improved results.
What if the overhead Realtime metrics board wasn’t just for the shop floor but every element of the enterprise. Imagine a “Sales Today” board above the Business Development Teams desks, or a “Mean Time to Answer Calls” board above the reception desk, Mean Time to Pay Invoices above Accounts Payable or a “Real Time Share Price” above the CEO’s Desk.
I am not specifically advocating this (nor am I an investor in dot matrix display companies!), but as a thought exercise, I think it is a useful challenge to ask whether the current systems are fit for purpose. Where data is locked in hard to use ERP systems which require training and admin approval before you can access them? Imagine if your whole team was transparently measured so that the whole enterprise was aware of the full context in which they are performing. What if they were empowered to “query” in real time. I.e. ask “How many of our customer accounts received 100% on time, Right First-Time orders in the last 12 months”. What sort of accountability, improvement and creativity would that generate?