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Why is the status quo not up to the 21st Century challenge?

The status quo pursues a set of organisational norms that pull an organisation in a different, if not the opposite, direction to where they should be going, including:

Efficiency at the cost of adaptability

Efficiency is seen as the key to commercial and operational excellence. But hyper-efficiency comes at the cost of adaptability and creativity.

Standardisation at the cost of localisation

Wholesale standardisation - from factory design to appraisal forms - comes at the cost of local realities and employee ownership.

Bureaucracy at the cost of responsiveness

Generally, the more permissions and processes an organisation builds in, the less responsive it becomes. The idea that people higher up the chain will consistently make better decisions than those at the front line (and that processes are needed to protect the organisation from those lower in the hierarchy) is a dangerous one.

Management at the cost of execution

Every minute spent “managing” someone else is a minute not spent fulfilling the organisation’s core purpose. This is not only a drain on resources but encourages an inwardly looking working experience when we should be looking outwards.

Small perspectives at the cost of system thinking

The status quo is not good at looking for indirect impact and outcome. It wants to know that “if I do A, then will B happen”. However, what we should be doing instead is learning how systems operate and, consequently, learning to apply system thinking to guide change.

Linear processes at the cost of circular conversation

Processes with a tidy set of steps to transition from “here” to “there” will overlook the reality that no relationship is linear and whilst that might be appropriate in a complicated environment, it isn’t within a complex one.

Linear thinking at the cost of exponential realities

We default to the idea that change happens in a predictable, linear fashion. This assumption underpins much of our decision-making from how a corporate assesses its strategic options to how we structure our school systems. But the information enabled environment we are experiencing is fuelling change at an exponential, not a linear rate. Which means the landscape will evolve much much faster and less predictably than we expect it to.

Individualism at the cost of community

Contemporary society has focussed on the individual and organisations have followed suit. We must build communities of empathy and action (with an emphasis on team), not perpetually assume an individual, particularly a senior leader, will make the difference.

Scientism at the cost of other truths

Modern organisations have adopted science and logical reasoning to the exclusion of other sources of truth, from the arts to spirituality. We need workplaces that allow us to bring every element of our humanity to the table.

Centralised decision making at the cost of engagement

Organisations know they must unleash employee potential if they are to thrive; employee engagement initiatives are one of the status quo’s responses. Usually centrally controlled, they attempt to align employees, through a variety of well-intended means, with a particular strategic direction - i.e. they ask for alignment after the decision has already been made. This is back to front: alignment (and thereby employee engagement) happens before and during decision making, not after it.

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  1. John Featherby

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