This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
There’s a lot of focus in organizations on moving fast to meet customer needs and shifting market conditions. ¬†We’re encouraging employees to be more involved in defining and delivering organizational success.¬†People from all levels and all functions of the organization are getting together to ‘hack’ solutions to important business problems. Collaboration is our mantra. Innovation our goal.
When the formal structures and systems of the organization aren’t supporting what we’re trying to do we’re finding ways around them.¬†And this is a good thing. But, in our rush to collaborate and democratize our organizations we’re losing clarity. ¬†While we’re busy crowd sourcing hacks: Who’s got the responsibility? Who’s got the authority? ¬†And, how do we know? ¬†Will we only find out once whoever it is pops out of the wood work to disagree with what we’ve been working on/towards?
This lesson came crashing home last summer when I discovered that, on a not-for-profit project I’d been working on for several years, I had all the responsibility and no authority. ¬†Since, I’m in the business of clarifying, helping make the grey zones black and white, this was a shocking revelation. But it was an informal volunteer thing, so… “These thing happen”.
Now I’m noticing grey zones places where I would never have expected. In a high growth, high success organization that completed a major restructuring and failed to make accountabilities clear for over a year. In a 500 year old institution where lack of clarity on roles and relationships and responsibility and authority is somehow seen as a good thing. And, in a global company where decentralization of decision taking was taken to such an extreme that their shareholders are now threatening to sue them due to lack of oversight.
The grey zones we create, intentionally or not, are costing organizations time, energy, and money. ¬†They are increasing¬†politics. It’s more and more about who you know rather than what you know or how well you do it.
Grey zones are decreasing transparency to the point where it’s virtually impossible for anyone to figure out who’s doing what, why, when and how decisions are being taken.
And, they are decreasing trust in the offering, the leadership, the institutions and, if you’re on the inside, in each other.
At high speeds, when we’re all moving fast to meet customer needs and shifting market conditions, new ways of working are imperative but grey zones may be costing us big time. ¬†Are they worth the risk?¬†