Wednesday, 18 December 2013

For a better tomorrow (tomorrow)

It's been now many years since I hear agile practitionners, learning organization advocates, or lean evangelists yell the same incantation :
- organizations do not empower their stakeholders and generate lots of waste
- respect, autonomy and trust are not valuated,
cynism, division and control are the real values of most organizations once greater than fifteen people,
- this should change.

Althought all those leaders have come up with great toolsets for people to shift towards more productive and fun ways of achieving their goals at work, their real impact is still quite modest. Who can quote a great lean bank? a great agile telco? a great learning organization embodied by a public service?
Some new players like Google or Wikipedia seem to have embedded the values of trust and autonomy in their DNA. Most former empires don't.

Of course. Culture hardly change. And when it does a bit, "Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop". In fact no large culture shift can be achieved in a massive way (in a democracy say). Hence most of this evangelistic activity is waste.

The only concrete thing we can do is creating hotbeds of such social innovation. With volunteers only. We give them the full autonomy to solve real issues, and a commitment to reach their market (whatever it is, even internal) in less than six months.

We have developed and executed such a method in large French corporates and administrations. It may be slowyer, but it is safer. We call it "trust-based debureaucratization", and it is embodied today by several "nation startups" inside the government and the administrations. The new open data portal has been released this way in less than six months, not only creating a unique social network between government and citizens, but also dividing its running costs by 10. Following this success, a new nation startup has started to simplify the public bidding system. "Apply for a public RFP with your company number, no other documentation". This wish that it should be easy for the end user, not for the administration, is a major cultural shift that could only occur outside of the empire ...

This method is highly reproductible and can be deployed anywhere as soon as a manager allows people to spend a few hours a week on solving any problem they choose, without asking for permission. As incremental solutions arise, the manager may invest more and more in the de facto internal startup, gathering the multidisciplinary team able to address the root causes of the issue. In such an environment, operational people, which are often separated from staff, can stop complaining about other departments ravages, and start solving the issues that matter to them, most often by lowering the walls and fostering collaboration among departements. The processes they rebuild are typically supported by IT systems that look more like "Corporate Wikipedias" than the typical "accounting fortresses", recurrent mirrors of bureaucratic organizations ...

Read more (in french) :

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