– David Burkus
We tracked down David Burkus, the author of the new book Under New Management, and spoke to him about how we can overhaul our understanding of what organizational management should look like. David was interviewed by Todd Greer, the Managing Editor for Nonprofit Performance Magazine. This is the final part of our interview.
Todd Greer: Have you read Teaming by Amy Edmondson? There are similarities between writing the org chart in pencil and her teaming principles, which I think is a part of this whole wave of the future.
I am in an organizational chart that is not written in pencil yet. How do I make adaptations in my organization if I don’t have the positional power to make the changes from a structural perspective? What little things can I do to begin to implement these things?
David Burkus: Just because you have a certain reporting relationship doesn’t mean you have to shun people who are in very different functions working on different projects. IDEO, an industrial design firm that used to write the organizational chart in pencil much more frequently, found that, as they grew, they couldn’t overhaul the whole thing. It is harder to do that with an organization with hundreds of people, although Eden McCallum figured out how to do it with an organization of thousands.
But IDEO allows a certain percentage of giving time. Giving time is you working on somebody else’s project. That creates a cross-functional thing that works exceptionally well for getting a lot of benefits of writing the organizational chart in pencil.
Even if you can’t roll that out on a company-wide level (although I think it is a pretty good idea to get organizational support on it), it doesn’t mean you can’t look at your overtime. If you are paid on salary, the assumption is we are paying you for roughly 40 hours a week of work. Nobody has a right to tell you what to do with the extra five hours in a 45-hour workweek. You can volunteer and spend your time working on another project, getting the benefits of that.
It will also build a huge amount of social capital across the organization because you will have connections outside of your silo. I see that more and more. A former student of mine called because she was working in sales for a for-profit, and the training department approached her about creating a role for her that was almost a liaison between two things. She didn’t know if she wanted it or not. I told her she had the opportunity to span a gap, which is huge; it will be an incredibly valuable position. Regardless of what your function is, find the time to volunteer on projects that are not part of your function because you’ll have the benefit of meeting other people. They will benefit from your outsider experience. You will benefit from learning from them, leaving you better prepared as you move through the organization.
If you can’t roll it out entirely, it doesn’t mean you can’t practice it yourself just by volunteering on certain positions. A nonprofit lends itself even more to that because of the way nonprofits interact with the people who – even if they are paid – volunteer to work for your organization.
Todd: If you can give one closing thought, what would that be?
David: The biggest truth is that great leaders don’t innovate the products; they innovate the factory. This is what Frederick Taylor did 100 years ago. You can’t have the assumption that you do it once, and it’s done. The nature of work changes, so we need to look back at the systems we have designed and probably innovate them. Innovative ideas, whether it is products, services, for-profit, nonprofit, public sector, it doesn’t matter, are always preceded by an innovation or a factory and the systems leaders put in place. Great leaders don’t focus on the products. They let their people focus on that. Leaders focus on the factory and giving their people what they need to be innovative.
David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity, LDRLB, and Under New Management, writes for The Creativity Post and 99U. His passion is leadership, innovation, strategy, and the transfer of good ideas. Find him at http://davidburkus.com, Twitter @davidburkus, or Facebook/drdavidburkus
This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today.
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