In the past 12 months, I have been asked by at least three different companies to “send a fax.”
In the past few years, I’ve encountered executives that still have their assistants print their emails for them.
When I visit a doctor’s office (in the US anyways), I’m asked to fill out paper forms, with redundant fields, so that the office assistant can then manually enter that same, poorly-handwritten information, into a database.
Technology is improving the way information flows in so many parts of our lives, but some systems are especially resistant to change – especially those related to managing a business.
My last role at a big company was at Blackberry: Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand. I was determined not to fall into the trap of relying solely on those with “Director” in their titles to provide me with the information that I needed to make decisions. I have encountered many leaders throughout my career that seem to be isolated from the reality of their businesses, teams, customers, and products. I wanted to come to my own conclusions in this new role and make the highest quality decisions based on multiple sources of information.
The first thing that occurred to me is that I need to find out what is really going on with the team, our customers, our strategy, and our processes – and not just from my direct reports.
So I began one-on-one interviews with then entire staff, even those that didn’t report to me, fifteen minutes at a time. It was a long, slow, and inefficient process, but the feedback I received was hugely beneficial. I discovered that our performance was waning not from a lack of effort or a dated product portfolio (although these were contributing factors). Contrary to what I might have been led to believe, there were business opportunities. There were untapped segments. But the broader team didn’t feel empowered to implement, or even offer up their ideas – that was “management’s job.”
Progressive leaders reject the notion that managers are solely responsible for ideation. Why is it that some leaders don’t actively pursue and tap into the brainpower of the smart people they hired at all levels? I found out that some of my best people were two or three levels deep in the org chart, and I know that this phenomenon is not exclusive to BlackBerry.
We’re more than a decade into the 20th century and many leaders are still relying on archaic, rigid, hierarchical structures to filter information, for the sake of efficiency. Why haven’t we used technology to improve this process? Why aren’t all employees, the people that know the company and its products best, involved in problem solving? It doesn’t have to be this way.
I recently founded a company with three likeminded friends. We are building a web tool that helps progressive leaders cut through organizational hierarchy and politics to uncover the best ideas and creativity from their teams. It’s called SpeakUp. Enter your email address at getspeakup.com if you’d like updates on our progress.