Do not doubt the intelligence of the leaders of large companies, nor indeed that of field teams. The former have understood for some time that the world has changed, that one crisis follows another, and that disruptive innovation breaks economic glaciers as effectively as climate change does those at the poles. The latter, since COVID, have been aspiring to more participative and collaborative ways of working in their teams. As observed in my book “The New Generation Enterprise,” this trend marks almost all teams, regardless of organizations, continents, cultures, races, religions, and political regimes. An unstoppable groundswell is spreading like a journey with no return ticket.
In conclusion, both groups should find common ground in a governance model that decentralizes authority, develops autonomy and the accompanying responsibility, and calls for an intrapreneurial spirit rather than that of a mere executing employee.
In reality, while everyone understands the need for change, few are truly ready to implement it.
Our leaders have been nurtured for 15 to 30 years in a culture of command and control, gradually detaching themselves from teams as they climb the hierarchical ladder, compensating for this loss of contact with dashboards and other KPIs that give them the sensation of finely “piloting” affairs.
At the same time, they ask their teams to undergo massive training (I call this B52 or “carpet bombing” training) in agility and rituals that “empower.”
Teams find themselves catapulted into leagues, tribes, and squads often without explanation or expressed need.
“We are agile!” becomes the universal mantra, autonomy the ultimate goal of new-generation companies. But why become agile, what real needs lie behind this push for autonomy? And by the way, what are the prerequisites? Do teams genuinely aspire to these new responsibilities?
Behind this forced transformation of rituals and collaboration types often lies a powerful feeling of contradiction, the famous paradoxical injunction that can drive one insane. Because it’s the same leaders who bombard agility as a panacea and who persist in vertical management to cement their famous KPIs, maintaining a sense of control.
Recently a colleague confided to me: “I’ve been in this profession for 22 years. I master it perfectly, and my sales salary attests to that. Yet, my hierarchy increasingly infantilizes me by asking for a tally chart every five days and the achievement of ever more numerous objectives on minor products in our catalog. The same hierarchy trains us in agility and preaches autonomy. They electronically monitor all my appointments and almost daily email reminders about these minor objectives, without recognizing my exceptional performance on the essentials…”
This paradoxical injunction undermines the trust of collaborators who perceive that everything must change but that ultimately nothing really changes. The resulting feeling is one of major dissonance between what is advocated and done, of unidirectional and broken trust, of fatal hypocrisy.
Indeed, I am convinced that the cultural change of an organization begins with its management team: I do what I ask others to do, I lead by example. Yet, moving from understanding to implementation requires a form of trust and genuine letting go so that authority can be truly distributed and collective intelligence can effectively find a framework for expression.
That’s where the need to exchange with peers, intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs can help traverse the desert of doubt, loneliness, the “we’ll never make it.”
This is also the moment when a scientific diagnosis can confirm the deep aspirations of the teams and thus the potential for realigning them with their aspirations, thereby generating a gain in collective performance.
I would like to conclude by sharing my experience of accompanying hundreds of teams over recent years, relying on scientific tools that guarantee rigor and neutrality. Never doubt the capabilities of your collaborators, nor those of your collectives, hierarchical or cross-functional teams that make up the organization. If they can manage without you for a long time, it’s probably because you made it possible.
Author: Luc bretones, Founder of NextGen