I’ve had this itch for a while now. It started off as a little niggle, I just had this feeling something wasn’t quite right. Like most guys my age (30+ and proud Mark Read), and like most guys with my background (working class), I didn’t talk about it, I just buried it. No sense dwelling on niggles, no point thinking something might be wrong.
But the niggle grew, I suppressed it more. It wouldn’t stay quiet; it wouldn’t go away – a stubborn little pest.
It took me a while to realise what was happening to me. I’m not sure I fully understand it. Every time I think I get it, it slips just a little further from my grasp.
What happened next?
I was getting increasingly tired of reports and meetings, spreadsheets and business updates. Tired of the amount of time spent doing work that added no value, tired of going round in circles…someone else’s circles.
This wasn’t what I enjoyed, it wasn’t the job I was employed to do, it wasn’t adding value to my clients, it wasn’t producing better results.
I came across a phrase and my niggle became an itch. I came across a phrase and an article that brought my itch in to focus. I came across a phrase, an article, and a book that turned the itch in to a cause.
This will sound very familiar
You know all the crap stuff we do at work that is, for the most part, frankly, pointless. Turns out it has a name - Organisational Drag.
Of course we don’t see a lot of what we do as pointless. We call it management reporting, business updates, and we do our very best to be as good at it as we can. We use phrases like accountability and ownership to justify our efforts. But we use those phrases in all the wrong way - they mean the opposite of what we’re actually doing.
When great isn’t good enough
As a company grows it develops processes, structures, hierarchies, and ways of working to help it grow and function. The more successful it becomes, the more it grows, the more processes, structures, hierarchies, and ways of working are required to support size and scale. This cycle becomes self-fulfilling, more is more, more is control.
Until it stops becoming self-fulfilling and becomes self-limiting. A great company becomes average, a great company becomes second-rate because it lost focus, it turned inwards. Optimising into sub-optimal performance.
My niggle that became an itch is this. Process and structure are dead. They have ran their course, delivered great gains, supported and nurtured our businesses – or more specifically our sense of what we believe a business person should do. But they are no longer required, no longer helpful.
Process and structure have lost their ability to deliver, or rather we’ve evolved to a point at which we can see beyond them. Now organisational drag limits our effectiveness, holds back our creativity, and deters innovation.
Cause and belief have taken over. Profit and shareholder returns are still a key output (of course they are), but they are an output not an input. What you put in is the key. What you put in is the answer you have been searching for.
Learn to let go. Learn to trust your people. Learn your Why. Learn. You know what you need to do to succeed in your role, go and do it. You know what your team, department, organisation needs to do, let them go and do it.
I still like to be organised, I still love spreadsheets, I’m still a little bit too alpha. But I get it, or at least I get a bit of it.
If you’ve read this far, you'll feel it too. The question is what are you going to do about it?