Sunday, December 09, 2007

Inverted Pyramid

The future of management as viewed by its practitioners across the industry is going to be very different from what we going on today. One commentator has succinctly summarized what ails organizations today :

A predominant feature of most organizations today is the top-down approach. Strategy is formulated at the top and is expected to be executed at lower levels of the pyramid. The underlying assumption is that wisdom, new ideas and a roadmap for the future are all the exclusive domain of the C-Suite.

Twenty years from now, I see the emergence of the inverted pyramid. Major decisions would be made at the operational level and driven up for ratification to the top. Such inclusiveness is inevitable given the ubiquitous nature of knowledge, the fact that radically new ideas can emanate from anywhere, and an adaptive roadmap is more likely to be generated by those who have a direct interface with key stakeholders - customers and suppliers. The assumption here is that with wealth being distributed more and more, the bottom of the present pyramid may have as much of a financial stake in the organization as the top.

All other constructs - the web structure, the CEO being the first among equals, empowerment, transparency, accountability et al follow from the inverted pyramid.

If the folks in the trenches or others like them are the consumers of the product or service in the organization's business domain, they can very well be the voice of customer that drives a lot of strategizing in the ivory towers. Yet, very rarely do they get to weigh in on usability, design, aesthetics, user experience, which competitors are doing a better job or what it would take to earn their loyalty and business.

When it comes to the implementation of strategy, without the input of the actual performers, management always risks over-promising and under-delivering. What is viewed a "minor implementation detail" in the grand scheme of things, can end up being the ugly, hydra-headed show-stopper.

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