Forget the rules, just do stuff?

Out with the old, in with nothing

Invariably, some of the initial hires in the new division will be strong performers from the core organisation that get shifted across (I will share my views on staffing and hiring at a later stage). They are often people who have managed to push projects through in spite of the corporate inertia and have been heavily exposed to the challenges of moving things forward in a big organisation with lots of rules.

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Revenge of the flowcharts

Management finds itself surrounded by a chaotic fog of war (who really knows what is going in out there?) and increasingly get hit with complaints from people on the ground frustrated by the lack of structure. All to often we then oversteer and impose too much structure, gradually recreating a lot of the processes that were left behind, only in a more haphazard and erratic fashion.

You’ll miss it when it’s gone

It is important to understand the multifaceted functions that structure and processes provide and consider up front how to reduce the negativities without stripping away the positives as well.

Reinvent the rules. Then do stuff!

All too often corporate innovation units start out with zero structure, bravely venturing forth and rejecting the sluggish processes of the mothership. As the tensions build it will often spur the sudden and top down imposition of rules and structure, stressing the organisation and hampering forward momentum badly.

Create an explicit division of labour

From the outset responsibilities should be defined at a high level. This will counteract the bumper car friction between teams and reduce the need for detail level coordination later. Things can be divided in any number of ways, e.g. functionally, by vertical, segments, opportunity spaces or any other criteria that may make sense. The key is to think about this division, make it explicit and communicate it openly and clearly.

Build a simple model of delivery

Even in the early days, commitments should be formalised and there should be a clear mechanism for sticking stuff on the todolist of someone else. How this is done is less important, but it is important that it does get done. Saying that person X has complete autonomy is fine, but that has to be made clear to everybody and person X must formally and explicitly commit to tasks he or she decides to take on. It is also important to openly designate escalation paths (who can overrule and make a final call) to avoid perpetual deadlocks and never ending merry go rounds of decisions and reversals.

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