Below are the Tweets and key ideas that I highlighted Turning the Pyramid Upside Down. In this fascinating book, the author Marilyn Jacobson draws on her years of consulting and coaching experience to reveal the principles of how flat organization structures, operating without command and control hierarchies, will be better able to respond effectively to a new complex, fast-paced, global environment.
For a new reality in a new century, a different kind of leadership is required.
The magnitude of leadership change needed defies any possibility that it be incremental.
How do you define self-leadership? Is it simply a process of influence?
Self-leaders look like thought leaders, always learning and open to opportunities.
I never had so much power until I started giving it away.
The first most significant and necessary step is to engage people.
Engage people in the pursuit of the organization’s strategic goals.
Since the watchword for the future is newness, altering context and environment is the priority.
How to get greater initiative, deeper expertise, better decisions, and increased flexibility.
Assess power in a new way.
Give authentic empowerment.
How to add synchronicity into the organization’s vocabulary.
Best practices are a past-oriented mindset. Look forward.
My Personal Kindle Highlights
- What we have learned from today’s most forward-looking companies is that only by turning the pyramid upside down can an organization in a global marketplace gain and secure competitive advantage.
- Leaders must partner and collaborate with their employees to respond to escalating complexities and inspire new thinking and discovery of fresh ideas. The continuous pressure for innovation and new technologies means involving others at all levels within the organization. Employees cannot simply be instruments to achieve leaders’ goals; they must be allowed and even encouraged to participate in the decision-making and be fully engaged in the achievement of organizational goals.
- The irony is that while executives want thought leaders, they do not involve their employees, ask for their input, and most egregiously, do not share information.
- Breaking down the hierarchy and internal silos and creating an atmosphere that encourages engagement and attention to employee welfare are the prerequisites to meeting, welcoming, and thriving on change.
- The next bold step is to move away from command-and-control organization structures and toward flatter, inverted pyramid-type organizations. The future role of tomorrow’s leaders will be quite different from the ones of yesterday. Instead of directing, leaders must develop, support, assist, and foster.
- The idea of turning the pyramid upside down may seem a bit radical because to be competitive in the new global economy, the magnitude of leadership change necessary defies any possibility that it be incremental. Escalating complexity due to such factors as technology and globalization, along with the continuing need to make the numbers while becoming ever more innovative, requires a kind of organization capable of extraordinarily high levels of purpose, commitment, and synchronicity.
- This impasse has come about because leaders do not provide the kind of information and inclusion in decision-making that would produce thought leaders or in any way ensure an engaged workforce
- Jaworski’s interpretation is especially germane today. Imperative for him is the requirement that organizations be open to a new “world of possibilities.” A second imperative is the need for people at all levels in organizations to participate in creating the future. For him, alignment is the critical path to success.
The Journey From the Great Man Theory to Post-Heroic Leadership
- In this progression, it is useful to note the influence of the “new science” of Chaos Theory, emanating out of the belief that there is harmony in the universe and organizations are part of the “complex network of people.” This suggests that a leader’s role is to promote the creation of an organization capable of learning and self-renewal.
- Transformation efforts rarely work because they must be “bold and rapid to succeed.” Therein lies the predicament. Most change efforts sponsored at the top fail; because the organization has become preoccupied with incremental improvement, there is uncertainty that the effort will stay the course, or the organization is already running at full capacity.
- Transformation launches must be bold and rapid to succeed, yet embedded in most organizations are various â€œspeed brakesâ€ that can slow progress to a crawl.
- The primary reason transformations fail is that those that are successful still fall prey to a financial downturn or other perceived outside pressure. The organization then retreats to its comfort zone ⏤ business as usual before the change.
- The movement away from heroic leaders has been continuous. Organizations know that they cannot wait until the right person with the right traits shows up.
- It is time to note that many people in the same organization share the heroic leadership attributes of energy, drive, conviction, intelligence, and commitment. So the questions must be restated: “To what extent and for what purposes do we need leaders?”
- A concept called “Self Leadership” suggests that more than one of those highly qualified, talented people within the organization is ready to emerge as a leader when their expertise is required.
- If we ever hope to be effective leaders of others, we must first be effective leaders of ourselves.
- There are a seemingly endless number of definitions and descriptions of leadership largely as a result of the vast number of people who have researched and written on the subject (and their equally vast and differing viewpoints). All of these descriptions have some merit. However, in focusing on the idea of self-leadership, perhaps the most useful definition of leadership is simply “a process of influence.”
- Self-leaders require feeding, not from 24-hour kitchens provided by some organizations to keep people sequestered, but from data and intelligence regarding the industry, the environment, and what competitors are doing. They seek access to material and people who will share information and industry know-how. They are beginning to look like thought leaders, always learning and open to opportunities to contribute at a higher level.
- When there is an inverted pyramid, the leader asks, “What can I do to help you?” Or, “What do you need to be successful?” and then provides the resources and freedom to make the best decision.
- Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and retired four-star general in the U.S. Army emphasizes in a biography by Oren Harari (The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell) the need for involving and engaging every mind.
Chapter 1 – Using Power to Empower
- Emphasis on both individual and team development is what smart leaders must adopt.
- It is also evident that what is sought is neither power nor influence, but more interesting and challenging work in the arena where decisions with the biggest risks and rewards are made.
- Giving up power by empowering others is a hurdle for some who equate leadership with being on top. Advancement to the C-Suite connotes both title and role. While turning the pyramid upside down is a major paradigm change, one current leader said, “I never had so much power until I started giving it away.”
- Flexible, agile, and cross-trained team members are also learning that they can play a critical role, not only in developing themselves but their peers as well. This reduces competition and encourages a united approach to advancing the business and themselves.
- They claim this connects them to people with expertise and mindsets outside their organization and their industry. They are exposed to alternative ways of visualizing the future and addressing common problems. Creative solutions surface.
Chapter 2 – Ask, Don’t Tell
- A major epiphany occurred when he realized he needed to tell less and ask more if he was to maximize the talent and skills of those who worked for him. This was such a revelation that “ask, don’t tell became his mantra.”
- Smart people get even smarter when they are empowered.
Chapter 4 – Streamline and Simplify
- Working with the team, I learned to value the wisdom of anticipating the future and positioning the organization favorably. This insight has been an important part of my consulting and coaching, and I expect it will be even more critical for future leaders.
- Fareed points to three lessons: 1) What is needed is a crystal clear understanding of what the issue is in a simple statement. 2) Have a simple plan to address issues, which is understandable to all. 3) Make early predictions and then achieve them.
- Engagement is becoming the watchword in many organizations as they realize the benefits to a committed workforce.
- The group came to consensus on a cluster management design, unusual in hospitals at that time. It featured a flatter organization, allowing greater communication and ease in launching new products and services. The new structure was put into place with enthusiasm and a sense of ownership, even though many lost their leadership status as part of the hospital management.
Chapter 5 – Numbers vs. Newness
- Beth brings a strong belief in the power and passion that a highly engaged team contributes to an organization.
- She insists that everyone wants to be part of the process; those left out are demoralized. People want to be valued and perceived as good enough to be part of the dialogue. She believes that each person is extraordinary in his or her own way and wants to be involved. Spirits are high when group members see themselves as part of a quality group.
- Most feats of sustained innovation cannot occur in an iconic garage or the workshop of an ingenious inventor. They occur when people of diverse talents and mind-sets and expertise are brought together, preferably in close physical proximity where they can have frequent meetings and serendipitous encounters.
Chapter 8 – From Waste to Wellness
- Therefore, the task is to demonstrate that by helping employees thrive everyone benefits. There still remains the nagging question: How do we make employees happy?
- According to HBR authors for the Happiness edition, the answer for U.S. companies is to involve employees in decision making, sharing information, and minimizing incivility. The first two are evident and discussed in other examples in this book. Incivility is not new and rarely talked about but gaining in strategic importance. Incivility in this context applies to leaders exercising power by berating employees publicly and similar humiliating acts. The most egregious is utilizing the fear factor of threatening dismissal.
- Flatter organizations will go a considerable distance from merely overcoming incivility in order to engage, encourage, and energize employees. Instead of being construed as a negative, speaking up is actually appropriate if employees are to act responsibly by challenging everything.
Chapter 9 – International Alliances
- Sustainability, as it relates to changing the organization for the future, is perceived as appropriate for the common good. People are invited to think beyond the present, to a business world of the future that coordinates faculty research and teaching. If looked at from this perspective, fundamental business practices are questioned and new practices are encouraged. That is the way change is embraced.
- Maya Hu-Chan and Brian O. Underhill in Partnering, the New Face of Leadership describe what is needed to partner with people in other cultures. They emphasize the importance of developing the next generation for this task. Openness to change, common values and motivations, embracement of new technology, virtual relationships resulting from colleagues in distant places, plus empowerment which comes from trust are the key factors they suggest for cross-cultural success.
Chapter 11 – There is Always More to Learn
- In Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, George Land and Beth Jarman approach the topic differently from their backgrounds in anthropology and education. They see â€œunparalleled opportunityâ€ in a time that requires change and inspires an altered worldview. Transformation is positive, not just for a few but for those who are able to rediscover their creative spirit. They see a time of renewed vitality and original solutions. By overcoming what the authors describe as traps, such as â€œmeasurement becoming the mission, spreadsheet mentality, tight control, [and] information filteringâ€ the reinvented organization will soar.
At the Frontier. What’s Next?
- The stories in the book reveal the best of leadership today. Those interviewed provide the pathway to the future because they have identified the constraints in the current environment and responded effectively. As they seek to position their organizations for an unpredictable world, they will reap advantages from what they have learned, but they will encounter other serious and unanticipated hurdles. What follows is a design for assisting organizations through transition to the future by maximizing the only sustainable competitive advantageâ€”people.
- The first most significant and necessary step is to engage people in the pursuit of their organization’s strategic goals.
- Command and control structures perpetuate the obsession to achieve immediate number-related objectives, while at the same time sabotaging innovation. The constant quest for position and power in a hierarchical structure leaves the most important and knowledgeable people out of the dialogue. Furthermore, it alienates instead of engaging those who seek to collaborate and contribute.
- Structure influences how organizations create cultures and related workspace designs that either foster or inhibit collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Tackling structure and culture is the first consideration for an organization that seeks to step up to the demands of global competition, mindboggling change, and the perpetual need for innovation. While turning the pyramid upside down may appear dramatic, drastic, and difficult, the evidence is strong that creativity increases as an organization gets flatter. The need to take risks and find optimal, and sometimes unconventional, solutions is enhanced.
- Collaboration breeds engagement and commitment. Getting rid of silos and other barriers enables partnering that capitalizes on knowledge and experience.
- Relationship building, seeking synergies across organizations, and developing alliances and reciprocal agreements within and outside the organization are critical in this drive for success.
- This is not a three-, four- or five-step program; it is part of a simultaneous equation that starts with the most basic objectives and the belief that one aspect leads quickly to others since they are interconnected.
- The most basic issue in this global, high-tech environment is how to handle complexities related to strategic planning, decision making, identifying and securing talent, building alliances, branding, pricing, marketing, and rewarding personnel. Obviously a single leader cannot undertake all this. Partnering and collaboration are replacing command and control hierarchies across the globe.
- Gary Hamel, a prominent business author says that “when you dismantle the pyramid, you drain much of the poison out of an organization.”
- The elements of culture entails how people are perceived, views regarding how power is distributed, how engagement and alignment bring together formerly disparate parts of an organization, how workplace redesign will enable and enhance collaboration, how simplifying reports and documents frees up time for higher-level decision-making, how information sharing strengthens every part of an organization, why providing a safe environment for speaking up is a force for continuous organization improvement, and individual development.
Some of the core precepts are listed below:
- People are number one
- Attention to well-being
- Assess power in a new way
- Give authentic empowerment
- Add synchronicity into the organization
- Streamline by breaking down barriers
- Simplify and shorten reports
- Share information
- Provide a safe environment
- Learn to help others to thrive on ambiguity
- Foster knowledge of related technologies
- Promote discovery
- Resist bold plans for achieving ever-higher revenue goals
- Move from a past-oriented mindset that refers to best practices
- Help others to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, as owners with a high stake in outcomes
- Circulate articles regarding industry and global trends
- Not as position power, not authority over others, not by determining the mission/vision and setting objectives for others, but instead partnering, building relationships, finding synergies, inspiring innovation, creativity, and bold thinking.
- Simply treating employees well isn’t empowering them. The danger of highly centralized, hierarchical organizations treating their employees well is motivational, but not necessarily empowering to the employees individually. Executives’ words imply “you’re empowered” while their actions say “you’re empowered as long as you get approval first.”
- It is the result of high levels of engagement and alignment across the organization and it will make a difference.
- Move from a past-oriented mindset that refers to best practices: At a time when agility is a primary asset, looking forward is the only correct direction. Meeting the future will soon make what was done yesterday ancient history.
- Networking has been a boon to those who have experienced the benefits. Several of those profiled in this book reveal the advantages gained by reaching out to others in different sectors to enhance their range of choices that may be complementary or unconventional to arrive at better solutions.
- Unfortunately the method promotes linear thinking, which suggests that problems are resolved sequentially.
- It ends up being more style than substance and the disturbing typical outcome is at the completion of the presentation when the audience leaves the room. The meaning of the data is left for each individual to disseminate separately. There is no analysis or discussion. An opportunity is missed.
- Being innovative has been bred out of so many organizations; what little there is, is usually an extension of what is already being done to make the process cheaper or faster.
- A few organizations, realizing that competition requires the introduction of previously untried actions, address the employees’ fear of failure by saying, “We want you to experiment,” and “It is OK to fail,” and “We expect mistakes will be made.” Unfortunately, what employees quickly learn is that one mistake is acceptable, two are questionable, and three is out the door.
- Risk is not really tolerated. What has started to pass for innovation is resourcefulness: that is applying minor tweaks to attain a minimal competitive advantage.
- Players know what they are worth and are in demand; therefore, they are scornful of hierarchies and impatient with layers of management. They want an environment that provides a high degree of autonomy with room to explore and even to fail. Because they are connected to outside networks, they have greater knowledge regarding what the competition is doing and thus greater personal mobility. This new breed of worker whose knowledge and experience has been nurtured in environments where debate is a norm is intolerant of cultures where challenges are considered â€œinsubordination.â€
- Instead of a traditional chart, Frances Hesselbein, CEO of the Girl Scouts from 1976 to 1990, established a new structure with people and functions across three concentric circles with the CEO in the center. She maintains that a “circular management liberates energy and the human spirit.”
- The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a group process with a definite purpose stated upfront. It starts with what is referred to as “silent generation” when each person is asked to write a list of their ideas for dealing with the topic, thus giving them time to collect their thoughts. Then the leader goes around the room taking the first point from each person’s list and writing what was offered on a tear sheet.
- There is no discussion except to ask for clarity. Each point is assigned a number. By round three or four, ideas are duplicated, and some choose to piggyback on an earlier item. The tear sheets multiply and are hung around the conference room.