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New Work needs Flat Hierarchies

or the hierarchy decision dilemma 

How using the New Work Toolkit can help you uncovering and re>>>thinking working dilemmas.

New Work or agile transformation for many people means flattening the hierarchy. And sure this helps reducing the distance between where strategies are developed, decisions are made and executed. Flattening also implies that there is less top-down thinking, more working together as equals.

In reality, flattening hierarchies often results in more people having to align on strategies and decisions, which means endless meetings and less consequent implementation.

Still flatter hierarchies are a good thing to

  • connect people closer to the value they create 
  • reduce the thinking – doing gap
  • make people speak up and collaborate on eye-level
  • decisions taken meet the needs of the customers

To make it work this requires re-thinking transparency, decision roles and self-organization.

1. New ways of working: Only if the teams with flatter hierarchies have a maximum of autonomy and self-organization, the number of decisions to be taken will be feasible. Also the purpose of flatter hierarchies to respond more flexibly to the changing needs of customers can only be achieved in this way.

2. New Transparency: More autonomy and self-organization requires more transparency, i.e. access to the information needed to maintain an overview and make forward-looking decisions. At the same time, there must be transparency about what is being done where so that those who align the company’s goals and strategies can make the right decisions. 

3. New Teamwork: Those who need to develop overarching strategies and make decisions must learn to work together in a different way to make decisions quickly and with customer value in mind. In small groups, co-creatively and with real decision-making power.

The following practices are helpful:

>>> Choose delegates who co-creatively develop and make decisions on behalf of the large management body (no ifs, ands or buts) – no more than 7 people

>>> Take the stakeholders’ requirements for what they are, perspectives and opinions that should be heard – but not as mandatory requirements that must be implemented – make the decision logic transparent

>>> Away from perpetual rounds of alignment, which lead to decisions based on the lowest common denominator, towards decisions based on consent.

Sociocracy 3.0 describes the procedure consent based decision making as follows:

  • Create clarity about why the decision is necessary
  • Present the decision proposal and collect objections
  • Classify objections – must be kept in mind or stops implementation because of negative consequences for the company
  • Process objections and make any necessary adjustments
  • Making decisions – Independent in the delegate group, without ifs and buts.

Many organizations are stuck in transition from top-down coman to self-organization. Re-thinking central decisions structures are key to success, as they will help balance alignment and autonomy in a better way.

New Work means questioning the status quo and finding new ways to design and organize work. Our re-thining cards and new work maps will help you to do so. The limited English version is now available.

Nicole Anzinger & Nadja Petranovskaja are the inventor of the New Work Toolkit, as set of cards and maps to re>>>think your way of working.

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