When I looked at the Spark The Change conference programme a few weeks ago I was pleased to see a wide variety of speakers and a broad spectrum of industries. It was promising to provide plenty of fresh ideas and learning opportunities.
The first day is now behind us and for one I can say I’m still buzzing with ideas, thoughts and inspirations. I have been to some great talks and made valuable connection with friends old and new.
I was also a little surprised how coherent the presentations ended up being. Each offered a fresh perspective and was based on very different experiences and varied theoretical foundations, yet they all seemed to repeat a similar message.
The message so far, quite in line with the conference’s theme is simple: current management models and practices are broken, dysfunctional and no longer allow us to build healthy, prosperous and supportive organisations.
This translates into some more concrete dysfunctions that many presenters were relating to. Here is my list of the ones I can remember and have occurred in more than one presentation:
- To work with people – genuinely love people. Working with people is difficult, managing people even more so, trying to change other people – impossible. Start change with yourself. If you want to help others meet their needs you cannot pretend, you cannot follow “best practice”, you have to be in the moment reacting to the chaos of interpersonal interactions with peoples’ best interest at heart.
- Build trust. Without trust it’s impossible to be honest and open with each other. Trust is an enabler. Lack of trust kills organisations.
- Provide transparency. If you trust people you can safely share all information with them. Greater transparency enhances trust and provides everyone with access to the information they need to function effectively. Be transparent about decisions, financial results, plans, meetings and even salaries.
- Trust. Risk. Creativity. When you trust people and provide them with the relevant information you can encourage them to take risks. And sensible risk taking enables creativity, which is how we can innovate and keep growing.
- Experiment. Outcomes and results are context specific. There are no recipes that can be applied directly; there are no “best practices”. Find an idea you like, give it a go, see it fail or succeed. Learn from the experience.
- Connect with people at a personal level. Bring emotions into the workplace. They really belong there. Understand what are the peoples’ needs. How they would like them to be met. Understand the emotional effects of your actions and decisions on others.
- Frontline is where the work is. The most important people in your organisation are the people doing the work. With too many layers of management and strict hierarchies people who make the decisions are too removed from the real work. There is no reason for a CEO or a Director to be paid more than the people who actually do the work. Perhaps you don’t need the directors and CEOs at all.
- Delight customers.
- No emails. No meetings. Emails create barriers between people, they are ineffective, too absorbing, too time consuming. Instead get up and talk to people, increase the communication bandwidth, talk about what’s truly important. Find more effective ways of collaboration and interaction. Getting a bunch of people together in a room is rarely an effective use of our time or a good way to reach a decision.
- Baby steps. Whatever you’re trying to do start small and take baby steps along the way.
- No job titles. Formalised, imposed job titles constrain people and create barriers. Let people choose their own job titles or even better, remove them altogether.
I’m really looking forward to discover what tomorrow brings.