Flat is the New Black

Ever wonder why big organizations act so darn slow? It’s not because of size alone.

It’s because our modern day organizations are designed and optimized for the “what is” rather than enabling a kind of velocity to be perpetually self-reinventing. Most big organizations focus on the positions and titles, and with only a few people setting direction, and then mostly doing risk management. They miss the opportunity to create momentum through action, velocity through distributed decision-making, or passion because of engagement at all levels within the organization.

This very short Ignite talk, filmed in 2009, draws the analogy of today’s current business hierarchical thinking to Heisenberg‘s Uncertainty Principle in physics.

When an organization focuses on a fixed position, they miss how to create velocity. They stay where they are.  They got to their first stop, or first market,, but now they can’t grow. Ideas get started at the top of the organization and then get told to the people of the organization to execute. Which creates no buy in. What they get is the equivalent of an AirSandwich. The “meat” of the sandwich is missing. The things that complete the sandwich in business – shared understanding, engagement of ideas, development of options …just doesn’t happen. In practical terms, the key things that cause real change to happen …the 1000 little decisions that people need to make, they are unprepared to make because they were not involved in the formulation of the direction. In business, as in physics, an organization can either focus on position OR on momentum, but not both. (And, of course, most organizations today have chosen wrong; we need to pick momentum.)

The talk was called: Flat is the New Black. The other working title is “A Tribute to Anand” which will make sense once you watch it.

As you watch it, ask yourself this: what small micro-actions can I make to help my organization have more momentum?

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