A green light for anyone to take any decision under 2 conditions

To do well in a fast-changing world an organization needs to always be improving and adapting. That means taking a lot of decisions, large and small. How to make that easy?

One of the CEOs I like working with sent out a memo to everyone in the company:

You want to change something? The traffic light is green. From now on you can take any decision you want. There are just two conditions. First, you ask advice from your colleagues to make a very good decision proposal. Second, you check if anyone has an objection against your proposal. Please note: an objection is valid only if it explains credibly how the decision would make the company worse off.

Sofie wanted to buy a machine that digitally tests the color of T-shirts. She asked her colleagues for advice and found it would save a lot of time and help to ship orders a week earlier. She asked about the investment and found a good business case. She asked widely whether anyone saw an objection, including the business owner, and no one saw a reason this would make us worse off: no objection. She went ahead and bought the machine, felt responsible and made sure it worked out.

Of course sometimes there are objections, e.g. a regulation that was overlooked, or a lack of cash. Then the proposal can be adjusted to deal with the objection (e.g. adapt to the regulation, buy the machine in 3 months).

In some instances, a debate ensues in which people start taking opposing positions, which can lead to long discussions, which can of course be interesting. In such cases it is nice to see the benefits of hierarchy: in the light of the pros and cons, the leader simply makes the final decision. We know from research and experience that this keeps things moving forward and improves stability and the atmophshere in the team.

This is how it now works in the company that got the memo, and I see more and more organizations applying such approaches. A few years back I started calling this ‘no objection decision-making’.

In these organizations, I see young people standing up, one by one, taking the opportunity to make new things happen. And that brings a smile to my face.

Start yourself today: when somebody comes to you and asks for some approval, do not give it. Instead say ‘no objection’ and allow them to make the final decision. Or if there is an objection, explain how the decision would make the organization worse off and give some advice. Also, for yourself shift from asking for approval to asking for advice and checking whether anyone sees a valid objection. It is a small shift that has huge consequences for engagement and change.

Learn more about this in the chapter on No Objection Decision-Making in our book ‘De Fluïde Organisatie’ (with co-author Filip Lowette, currently in Dutch).

The unconscious desire for hierarchy

Natural hierarchy emerges between two people when one sees themselves as relatively more dominant and the other sees themselves as relatively more submissive in the relationship, and this pattern is accepted by both. Influence in such a relationship is asymmetric (it flows more in one direction than the other) and it is accepted. At work, people like it when this happens.

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Make your idea better with a toolbox of 7 letters

You are not like a robot automatically executing tasks, just running the business. No, you see new issues and then come up with new ideas for action to improve things. To make your ideas better, you think. But that takes time and from Monday till Friday you don’t have a lot of spare time lying around. How can you think well in little time?

RENEWAL is a toolbox of letters to make your ideas better.

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How to use and not use business frameworks

Do we need all those business frameworks? Consultants are infamous for churning out 2x2s. A business book does not sell without a good symbolic framework. Strategy presentations are full of maps and frameworks. Where to compete vs How to compete. Products vs. Segments. Blue Oceans. Market attractiveness vs. Competitive advantage. Isn’t that just bla bla, mind games, corporate mumbo jumbo for the board, people showing off their smarts etc?

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Fluid Organisation

Today the publisher sent back the now fully designed inside of our book, The Fluid Organisation. First in Dutch. English version will follow, probably in the summer.

So much is being written about the need for organisations to move to a next level. Our book gives you the handful of practical methods that bring that reality within reach. The key is not soccer tables in the lunch room or searching for the soul of the organisation, but it is all about allowing and triggering everyone to proactively share information and identify issues for discussion, to make sure these are discussed, and next actions are decided, based on the wisdom of the crowd. This so-called ‘action circle’ needs to spin and spin at all levels: operational and strategic, individual and team and organisation.

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Duda Leadership

This week Martijn van der Erve (CEO of Erve Group) and I gave the next presentation of our Duda Leadership framework, and after all these months this time it was professionally filmed to share in the company!

Pure self-management, where everyone is equal in influence, is not effective. We know this from theory and our own practical experience. Asymmetrical accepted influence is still required, and to achieve that we need people to demonstrate leadership.

Leadership is the driving forward of the organization. Although this used to be the privilege of the top echelon, we believe everybody can lead, recognizing this will differ person to person.

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What organisations can learn from Harari’s dataism…

In his book Homo Deus, the sequel to Sapiens, Harari invites us to consider that humanism may get serious competition from dataism.

Humanism is the ‘modern day religion’ that posits that not God but humans are the highest authority.  When you have a tough decision to make, humanists recommend you to discover your unique self, to listen to yourself, to follow your heart, and to do what feels good.

Dataism posits that data are the highest authority, that the world consists of data flows and that the merit of any entity consists of its contribution to data flow, to data processing.  One of the ideals of dataism is free flow of information.

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Ask for solutions or for next actions?

Just got back from the twice yearly global strategy days of a client in textiles. Istanbul is a great location for this: symbolically it is the bridge between West and East and there are many direct flights from all the continents.

The approach we took for these global days is the Fluid Strategy process as described in our forthcoming book “The Fluid Organisation: an ideal mix of hierarchy and self-management”, co-authored with Filip Lowette.

After a minimal amount of presentation, we created breakouts for each main strategic issue (based on issues contributed by all teams in the organisation).

And what I want to stress in this post:

We did not ask the breakout groups to end up with solutions, but to focus on next actions.  It is impossible to develop a full solution that everybody is happy with, it takes a lot of time, and it will be out of date soon. Much better to discuss about the direction of the solution and to define the next actions needed to start moving in that direction. When the breakouts report back to the full group, or back to the rest of the company, we ask them to name the next actions and who will take them, and check whether anyone has an objection. Result: lots of energy and momentum, and lots of action after the meeting.