Strict hierarchies worked in the early 1900’s. Now? Not so much. In fact, a lot of times they have the effect of stifling information, squelching innovation, stomping on organic leadership, and frankly, just ticking people off.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here–I’m not advocating for rudderless organizations with no discernible leadership structures. Organizations need structure, and organizations need leaders. But when that exact structure begins to do more harm than good, you’ve at least got to consider blowing it up and building something that makes more sense.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself and/or your leadership team: How often do ideas get stuck in the pipeline? How does your current structure encourage–not just allow–people to take ownership of problems and create solutions? Underneath all the “we empower our employees” stuff, how empowered are they really? Do you have some sort of process or structure in place wherein employees can get their ideas heard? Do you think employees feel like it’s easy to get a real hearing for their ideas? Be honest: how scared are you to let employees take ideas, build on them, and make them happen without you holding (or tying) their hands? How does your structure encourage–not just allow–employees to step up and lead? Do you think your employees love working within the context you’ve built? Or do you think it’s more often a source of frustration?
The thing is–people generally want to do awesome work. Sometimes we just have to get out of their way and let them do it.