An iceberg is a great analogy for many individual, team & organization efforts. Perhaps the most familiar model is from Ed Schein in which he uses the visible & invisible to illustrate how a company makes decisions. How it takes action.
Above the water (visible) of the iceberg indicates strategic intent. Below the water (invisible) of the iceberg indicates core principles & values.
Below the water!
- Hard Work
- Long Days
Above the water!
Here are 2 example organizations. What type of environment would you thrive in? Which one inserts more wisdom?
- Practice: stacked rankings of employees
- Principle: get the cream to rise to the top
- Value: competition
- Belief: few people really drive performance in the organization
- Practice: 40-hours training for everyone
- Principle: enable contribution for everyone based on unique talents/gifts
- Value: collaboration
- Belief: everybody matters
Let's dig a little deeper into "Example B" and what makes it work.
Connect the Dots
- Provide the "big" picture context
- Tie it to what each individual does
- Talk about how it all fits together & influences one another
- This is the basis for employees good judgements
- Everyone ideally knows what the dots are & how they're connected
Mission, Vision, Values
- Overall strategy
- Latest company news
- What's happening on the ground
- What are the key performance indicators?
Expect Leadership Everywhere
- Leader is a position
- Leadership is the behaviors
- What's rewarded/recognized will be repeated
Strengthen Employee Voice
- Leaders learn humble inquiry
- Followers learn how to constructively confront
- Power differential between hierarchical positions becomes more "fuzzy"
Before we move on, let's look at 2 examples. How do each of these connect the dots; show their mission, vision, values; expect leadership everywhere; strengthen employee voice?
Canadian Geese don't care who leads. The leader changes when tired.
Starlings move together as a group. Team agility is paramount.
Here are some additional aspects that make "Example B" work.
- If you want people to trust, be trustworthy.
- Trustworthy = Right Intentions + Capability + Ethics & Integrity
- "ICE"-berg - Intentions | Capability | Ethics
Promote the Common Good
- Organizational purpose must be articulated & manifested in the "common good"
- The orientation of the organization must include not only all of its members but also the various external partners
- customers, clients, suppliers, broader community
Make Decisions at the Lowest Level
- Organizational decisions need to be informed not only by the high-level strategic decisions but on the ground knowledge
- Organizational members need to be recognized as capable of making prudent decisions
- 3 Key components
- Depth of shared data up/down
- Breadth of shared data
- Competency & deep knowledge base of subject matter experts
Focus on the Long Term
- Organizational action (while constrained by the short term) must be aimed at long term purpose & achievement
The W.L. GORE company is a great real life example of these beliefs & principles. They approach all of this with this principle for risk tolerance...
The Waterline Principle
“The waterline principle means that it’s ok to make a decision that might punch a hole in the boat as long as the hole is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship.
But, if the decision might create a hole below the waterline which might cause the ship to sink, then associates are encouraged to consult with their team so that a collaborative decision can be made.”
-W.L. Gore (1912-1986)
A mistake above the water line doesn't threaten the whole ship.
A mistake below the water line jeopardizes the whole ship...proceed with support!
For this to work, it's important to choose the appropriate decision-making process to use, especially when support is needed.
- Majority Rules
- Subject Matter Expert
- Combination of ?
Your intention is the key. If you want a culture where people feel safe to use good judgement in making decisions be sure you're...
- Connecting the dots
- Expecting leadership (behavior) everywhere
- Demanding trustworthiness
- Promoting the common good
- Expecting decisions to be made at the lowest level
- Focus on the long term