Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nimble and Flexible

Some thoughts on a Leader's role in creating flexible and nimble organizations.

So how did David decapitate Goliath? We all know the answer.
Agility vs. Muscle Power;
Capability to strike accurately, from a distance, vs. waiting for the enemy to come within striking distance;
Focus and Concentration.
And the courage to go face an enemy so huge in the first place.
David also knew he had but One chance to strike with his slingshot and he just had to get it right.
What about Goliath, what would have been his thoughts? Standing in his huge shoes, he would have thought - 'what a joke! They send a puny 19 year old with what but a funny looking contraption and a stone to fight me! Me, the mighty Goliath!'
Of course the rest is history.

And recently history, for those of you who have read and seen Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, you would recall the scene where a giant gets into the school and is about to get at Hermoine, when Harry Potter manages to get on top of the giant who just could not shake him off, and manages to get the beast down using his wand in an unconventional way by stuffing it up the beast's nose! Wands otherwise, for the uninitiated, are supposed to be waved to cast spells and create magic.

Now that I am through with the preamble and building context, down to business.

In the business world too Davids all around us are getting the better of Goliaths, and the weapon of mass destruction they use is rapid response, quick to grab the opportunity and present a solution before others, sizing the opportunity with both hands before others have been able to initiate.

Smaller and nimble organizations are perfecting the art of, rather improving on perfection, to respond to changing market and customer needs; while the mammoths continue to spend energy on increasing internal process efficiencies or establishing taskforces to find out 'knots' in the red tape they have built over the years.

I love Nike's catchline "Just Do it". I think it sould be the Motto of All process owners. Managers should Paste it in Large Bold Red Letters across their Walls, with colors changed every week so they notice it. And hopefully some of it will sink in.

Managers' roles should be evaluated like Radio Engineers evaluate stages in a radio system. If a stage does not add any amplification or signal modulatione etc (read 'value addition'), it probably only adds Noise in the system and degrades the signal furhter. It then also puts more strain on the IF part or the signal processing part of the system to work on the signal.
And of course it adds delay!

So should passing a transaction through a manager be evaluated - either it adds value or just noise and further deteriorates the final result, apart from delaying the entire process.

Another area where Davids are routinely bashing up Goliaths by the ton are centralized vs empowered organization structures.

Every leader talks empowerment - very few give up control!

In the warfield of decimated Goliaths, nine of out ten headless giants have the words 'empowered in theory never practiced' etched on their chests.

Another factor that adds to the reams of entangled red tape in organizations is the pressing need of managers to justify their existance and the salary they receive. How else, but by authorizing or signing off each transaction.

Remember the Radio System analogy. Perfectly fine if they have good SNR( signal to noise ratio) and amplify the signal, else it is all Noise and Delay

Davids routinely win by putting the executor as close to the action as possible.

Imagine what would have happened if David had to write an e-mail to his manager who would have further written to his chief of staff to get a sling shot issued and then to take permission to swing the sling shot, at a pre-defined template driven speed, before taking on Goliath.
An of course, Goliath would have been advancing on him like an avalanche, while David would have been sending reminders on his blackberry to the scores of managers for a response and go ahead! The alternative - die or be fired!

So what did David's managers do right - train him, give him the right tools, and empowered him to hit as and when he thought appropriate.

The world does not wait or care for internal processes, we as customers do not care for what happens behind the fast food counter - we place an order and get it as per a predefined Service Level Promise.

The most successful organizations do a few things really beautifully -
Rigorous training to the client contact people.
Those who take the order also deliver the same - the promise the service level and deliver it
they are empowered to take decisions and respond on the fly
they reduce the distance between the client and ultimate doer, internal or external clients.

Clients or customers can be internal or external. The above holds true for both situations.

For large Multinationals there are as many internal customers dependent on response from internal service providers as there are external.

And empowerment to respond rapidly to internal requests for action are as critcal for success as empowerment to respond to requests for action to attack business opportunities.

Leaders have a major role to play on how they build their organizations.
Read also one of my posts on 'leaders and proactive organizations'

see you..


Blogger d@k$h said...

hi anurag,

this is Daksh Sharma from IdeaFarms,New Delhi.

I was reading your post where u had mentioned that u had been a part of Tom's Smartsourcing sessions..

I would be interested to talk to you more about smartsourcing.. and would be interested to hear your view point on

2:32 AM  

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