Complication kills productivity and engagement

by Didier Marlier on Friday February 6th, 2015

NO! I did not fall in love with B.C.G. (Boston Consulting Group), BUT I must admit that, for the second time in a few weeks, a B.C.G. partner makes a TED-X speech that I find worth sharing with you! (brought to my attention by Jean-Pierre Fonta, heading a consultancy specialized in marketing/go to market for pharma industry)

Yves Morieux is a razor sharp, advanced thinker (French, in case you haven’t picked it up) senior partner in the firm. An expert in corporate transformation, his interest is in New Business Complexities and their Organizational Implications. I immediately liked the passion and belief which animate him. I would guess, he is a deep thinker and reflector and he proves us that one may have a Jungian preference for Introversion and be a captivating, engaged and engaging speaker!

Yves starts with two challenging questions/provocations:

  • Why is productivity so low in our organizations, in spite of all the technological advances?
  • Why is the disengagement so high, when there are so many affiliation events, teambuild, celebration and other conventions?

Are these co-related in a way? Is disengagement high because of the pressure to catch-up with low productivity or does a low productivity have a negative impact on the pride and sense of purpose of the employees, creating low engagement? Yves Morieux disagrees. For him those two are the consequences of the same root cause: The obsolete belief we still have in the two pillars of management, the hard (structures, processes, systems, metrics…) and the soft (feelings, relationships, traits…).

Yves is right, in my humble view… The human reaction to the complexity of the Disruption Economy is to throw structures, strategies, rules, roles and procedures… And by doing that, we just move from complexity to “complicatedness”, as he calls it. Those complicated structures annihilate, block any possible innovation (see his telling example on “reparability” by a car manufacturer at 3′).

So what is the solution? I like the metaphor of the human body: “When confronted to complexity, the answer is not in the skeleton but in the neuro-system of adaptiveness and intelligence.”Yves then demonstrates exactly why consultancies and traditional consultants are themselves unadapted to the Disruption Economy, through his Logos and… fluffy poor demonstration that cooperation can’t be helped by the soft. His only mistake… But he caught back my interest with his 6 rules:

  • Understand what the others do: This is exactly the theme of last week’s blogpost. Our simulation clearly shows that teams which are relational and not just transactional, are more curious and keen to explore. They interest themselves far more to the reality in which their colleagues operate.
  • Reinforce the integrators: Nice consultant’s jargon… Easier said than done. But identifying people with those skills (see the blogpost dedicated to the brilliant speech of another BCG partner), people who do not think in silo, people who do not go for bonding but build bridges and promote, support them, is indeed an idea for the future.
  • Increase total quantity of power: Yes! We call this create intelligent organizations. The old pyramidal “easier to seek permission than forgiveness” model is dead in front of complexity.
  • Extend the shadow of the future: I like the idea of making people responsible for the future that they create (see his example) and believe we should go further than this potentially threatening advice. The strategizing process recommended by Nick van Heck makes people own their future, for the worse but also for the better.
  • Increase reciprocity: We talk about interdependency… In our simulation (see last week) the temptation for participants to take a “How can I fly like an eagle when surrounded by turkeys” attitude is high. Those who understand the interdependency of complexity and engage into a “How can I help you to help me” relationship perform far better.
  • Reward those who cooperate: Yves talks about the illusion of (dysfunctional) self-sufficiency. We sometimes revere the wrong heroes, the great salesman, the deal maker, the rainmaker. Professional sport, however, shows how far better, average teams have been working when their stars were left off the field by a courageous coach (AimĂ© Jaquet not selecting France’s best player, Eric Cantona and ending up winning the World Cup). Rewarding those who cooperate is a must.

I finally like Yves, closing punchline: “The real battle is not against our competitors but again ourselves, against our bureaucracy, our complicatedness!”

It is encouraging to see that more and more people come to the same conclusion as we did, with Business futurist Gerd Leonhard and strategist Nick van Heck, years ago: Companies that will strive in the Disruption Economy will challenge three orthodoxies:

  • Strategy will cease to be just a “guessing the future exercise, reserved to an elite” but will also become a process of “intelligentization”, development and engagement for the whole company, called strategize
  • Organizations will move from complicated to simple, bearing in mind the complexity to which they are confronted. We will move from bureaucratic, hierarchical, pyramidal organizations to vibrant, connected and relational organisms
  • Leadership will go from “Seniority means superiority” to generous, engaged, demanding and benevolent leaders.
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2 Responses to “Complication kills productivity and engagement”

  1. Didier,

    Another excellent one spot on as I had exactly yesterday this situation: why we are so inefficient in our meetings ? and in new process devlpt ? Too many attendants with no added value and lack of decision maker …We need more entrepreneur and less “rond de cuirs” protecting their territory .

    • Thank you Claude. I would encourage you to share the clip with people around you, it may help them realize what you see. I think you will like next week’s post even more…


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