As COVID-19 brings the global economy to a halt, many businesses are struggling to continue their day-to-day operations. Offices are closed, managers’ days are filled with meetings, and employees struggle to stay motivated and complete their work.
Surprisingly, I haven’t encountered any of these issues while working remotely for the past few weeks. My days are filled with more meetings, but my workload is still manageable. Indeed, at Saggezza, we are truly a flat organization.
We were able to continue operating at the same level because employees generally do not need to go through multiple levels of approval to do their jobs. We make decisions quickly, act quickly and collaborate so that there is no single point of failure in the business.
If that sounds appealing to you, you might be wondering what big business can learn from flat organizations in these trying times. The answer is simple. You can start by adopting these eight principles:
Trusting employees is essential for flat organizations, and that trust has to go both ways. Managers must have confidence in their employees’ ability to make decisions. And it’s just as important for employees to trust their managers as it is for employees to trust their own judgement. If an employee feels uncertain or suspicious about making important decisions, they will never be successful.
The most important question managers don’t ask themselves is, “How can I build trust?” »
Transparency is key to building trust, as employees will feel informed, understand the company’s goals, and how those goals align with their work.
Confidence is confidence in action. While trust is based on belief, trust is based on logic and facts.
Passion is harder to establish, and it would be naïve to say that most people are passionate about their careers. Most managers don’t understand how to invoke passion in their employees because they see passion in the wrong way.
Managers need to find out what excites their employees and create opportunities to incorporate that into their employees’ work.
Autonomy and passion go hand in hand. Nothing will kill an employee‘passion faster than being micromanaged. Autonomy allows employees to find better ways to do their jobs or get involved in new areas of the business, outside of their core competencies.
6. Fail quickly
Failure is inevitable.
Think of something you spent a lot of time working on, only to have it fail in the end. This lost time could have been spent on other things that would have succeeded, but there is also value in the lessons learned.
Failing fast will help you and your team learn faster, allowing you to move forward with more insight, faster. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t punish your employees for failure.
7. No single point of failure
A popular criticism of the flat structure is that you end up with a lot of generalists and no specialists. Real specialists are hard to find in most companies anyway, and a flat structure won’t have a big impact on that.
With many generalists on your team, many people share the ability to perform essential tasks. No one is at risk of being a single point of failure.
The word “agile” is used more and more every day. If your business doesn’t operate on agile principles, you’re considered a dinosaur.
Even if Agile isn’t working in your business, key aspects of this technique can still be incorporated. All organizations can benefit from increased collaboration and crisis pivoting.
Flat Culture Requires Closely Connected People
All the principles of a flat organization that I have listed here are interconnected: Ttransparency builds trust, and trust inspires trust. Confidence allows individuals to be comfortable with the potential for failure. Autonomy creates a sense of pride and passion. Agility and collaboration increase transparency and decrease the likelihood of a single point of failure. Without all of this, it would be nearly impossible for employees to pivot quickly when things don’t go as planned.
Amid this global public health crisis, many companies could benefit from reconsidering their internal hierarchies and flattening their organization.