Organisational Change Management Volume 1

Framework 57 Democratic Approach

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In the traditional bureaucratic, command and control, autocratic organisation, there is strict hierarchy, restrictive access to information, senior management members place themselves on a pedestal.

On the other hand,

"bureaucracy was oppressive and stifling and that good people shouldn't be stifled by policies that are intended to catch a small minority of bad people ... They also decided that they could organise themselves more effectively than a manager could"

Paul Green as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2011g

This attitude plus the revolutionary impact of technology changes (digitalization, Internet, social networking, etc) and a more complex, interconnected world, means the situation is changing radically.

Future leaders will need to be capable of pattern recognition and trend spotting, be good communicators and be alert to handle crisis avoidance. Furthermore, they will have to handle distributed leadership, as power is increasingly shared and collaborative.

Organisations will be like a federation of 'digital natives' or 'freelancers' who collaborate independently through social networking tools; and the organisational structure will resemble an inverted traditional management pyramid, with customer-facing people on top.

More and more younger people entering the workforce want to feel that they are making a contribution. This provides a challenge to management to create strategies, systems, processes, etc that encourage staff to feel that they are a valued part of the organisation.

This democratic approach requires accountability and freedom. Staff members are unable to absolve themselves of responsibility by claiming that they are only following orders.

Social media has played an important part in raising the expectations of people, ie

"Social media says: I see you, you matter, you have a voice and you have influence"

Traci Fenton as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2011f

Linked with this is a high estimation of self worth.

Most organisations using this framework are IT-based, such as HCL (Indian-based IT company), (US-based online retailer), Groupon (Internet-based discount sales company), DaVita (health care group), American Support (US-based virtual customer service company), etc. Some non IT-based organisations include US textile manufacturer (WL Gore & Associates), British retailer (John Lewis partnership), the world's largest processor of tomatoes, US company (Morning Star)

Most staff feel that if they had more freedom with less fear and control at work, their overall performance would improve via an increase in innovation, employee engagement, etc

An example: during the global financial crisis, the HCL company asked its 80,000 staff how to save $US 100 million in order to avoid layoffs. The staff came up with 76 action items that resulted in savings of $ US 260 million; more than double what was required !!!!!!

The elements of this framework include transparency, dialogue and listening, integrity, accountability and choice on leadership.

It is felt that this framework has shown resilience during the global financial crisis; it embodies trust between staff and management so that all personnel are able to actively maximise potential

"When people feel knowledgeable about the process and that their views are respected and heard, then they have created a community where good ideas and talent can flourish without restraint"

Kim Jordan, New Belgium Brewery as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2011f

Key Elements

We create (all staff can contribute their ideas which are recorded and distributed unedited to all stakeholders)

We talk (use regular 'town hall' meetings and 'voice of the village' meetings in a two-way dialogue between management and staff)

We solve (daily 'huddles' in which obstacles to staff performance are raised; someone in the huddle is expected to take ownership of finding a solution)

We decide (staff decide if they want an organisation as a client)

We participate (seats are available for staff to attend board meetings to foster openness and inclusion; staff-elected teams decide on remuneration packages for all)

We speak freely (and organisational-wide social network allows staff to converse, criticise and solve problems online, without fear of censorship)

We want (staff pick the projects/assignments they want to work on)

We name (staff choose their own job titles and change them whenever they like; they decide their own hours of work)

We see (staff have access to each other's goals and key performance indicators)

We share (no person earns more than twice what another employee earns)

(source: Fiona Smith 2011f & l)


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