Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Leading With Scarcity or Abundance

On my way to Austin, TX a couple of days ago I read an article on leadership in the July 2009 issue of Wired. Since I enjoy thinking about organizational development and leadership issues I found the article interesting -- especially the comments of the author about the "wastefulness" of nature and how our Western focus on efficiency seems to go against the way our universe operates (since I am Christian I would say how God created the universe to operate). At any rate, I found the chart that follows thought provoking. I've made a couple of adjustments to it and added some comments, but overall it follows the heart of the author.

Scarcity Management
  • Everything is forbidden unless it is permitted. This inhibits innovation and creativity so that in "brainstorming" sessions with management one often hear the words "can't", "that's not the way we do things", etc. Non-management personnel rarely even suggest new ideas or concepts.
  • Paternalism. Management knows what is best for the organizations or for clients.
  • Plans are focused on Business Models. All new plans need to be presented with a business plan that details how this will create more profit, be more efficient, etc. Everything must be planned out in advance -- as if we know what the future holds.
  • Top Down Decision-making Process. Decisions are made by top management and leave little room for those who are not "the deciders" in how to implement the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Few innovations are ever adopted. To see the long-term results of this, just check out what is happening at General Motors.
  • Command and Control Organizational Structure. As much as possible is centralized in a small group of people. The job of everyone else at the organization is essentially to follow the commands of "the deciders" who have a tendency to micro-manage. One of the results of this kind of structure is the inability of the organization to keep entrepreneurs, innovators and creative people.
Abundance Management
  • Everything is permitted unless it is forbidden. Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurs thrive in this kind of organization. New ideas are encouraged, new products and services developed and growth explodes.
  • Egalitarianism. The customers know what is best. Those working on the frontlines know what is best. Listening is a hallmark of this kind of organization. The best ideas often come from those lowest on the totem pole.
  • Be Prepared. Preparation is more important than planning -- since in the 21st century it is difficult to plan or tell the future. Preparation for organic growth is more important than planning. Positioning is crucial. The plan is developed as the organization grows and takes advantages of new opportunities.
  • Bottom-Up Decision Making. Once everyone is committed to the vision, values and principles of engagement of the organization, decision-making is pushed down as low as possible on the corporate ladder. Strategies and tactics are largely determined by those doing the work -- as long as strategies and tactics are consistent with organizational vision, values and principles.
  • Organizational Structure looks a lot more like a web than an organizational chart. People at all levels of the organization are invited into the decision-making process. Less command and control -- more flexibility and chaos. More like dis-organized organization.
There is much that could be said about these two models. Both have strengths and weaknesses that have to be addressed. Some people are more attracted to the first model -- others to the second.

In the Christian world, denominational structures may more often than not look more like the first model. Youth With A Mission (YWAM) looks more like the second. It is my belief that organizations who want to thrive and prosper in the 21st century must look move to an Abundance Management style.

1 comment:

Sean (www.seanfilidis.com) said...

Thanks this is really helpful.