Every organisation needs to continuously guard against doing things in outdated ways. This will happen if an organisation does not recognise the need to rejuvenate itself every so often.
As an organisation grows old it harbours powerful managers with almost unlimited powers over the teams they work with. The managers are perceived as powerhouses rather than as team leaders, on account of their longevity in the establishment.
But a renewed company will have self-directed work teams with a participative team leader who is involved in the work and all its challenges.
Old organisations will have bureaucratic models with hierarchical reporting structures that focus on organisational seniority and job descriptions that should be strictly adhered to religiously.
The new organisation will have a flat structure with large spans of reporting that focus on roles that add value for the customer.
The old organisation will be organised around functions with great emphasis on functional accountability and limited responsibilities. There will be a lot of emphasis on whose space is this and who should be the sole decision maker in that space.
New organisations will be ordered around processes, with greater emphasis on process accountability with extended responsibilities.
They will have a strategic vision, balanced by flexible planning for turbulent and highly competitive environments. They will focus on getting the job and the individual responsibility for adding value to the end customer.
Old organisations on the other hand will focus on incremental planning and budgeting for relatively stable competitive environments.
They will be ill prepared for competition or rapid changes in the environments. They will often maintain the status quo until when it is too late. The will pay more attention to the job activities and components and what is in whose job description.
In such environments, it is considered better for a task to remain undone than for it to be done by someone in whose job description the task is not mentioned. No matter how well another person did such a job, the one who considers it his role will ask, “Who told you to do that job? Who gave you permission?
They are likely to have excess baggage in the form of huge overhead structures that are almost untouchable in their conservative nature.
Such baggage will usually be under the control of some powerful manager whose individual efforts and purpose in the organisation is likely to be quite misaligned with the firm’s efforts.
Renewed organisations will be leaner and focused on optimisation of the resources for maximum efficiency. They will usually embrace a culture of learning and continuous improvement. They will recognize and reward promoters of change.
When an organisation does not renew itself it will have managers who give instructions to unquestioning subordinates. This will effectively diffuse accountability, where individual efforts will hardly be aligned to the overall goals.
Such organisations are more inclined towards protecting their “good reputation” with rigid application of their policies and procedures. This is not to say that such managers highly prize the reputation of the organization.
They are simply on an ego trip, courtesy of good old rigidity. The only thing that matters to them is their status and keeping the order of things very much the same. They are afraid of change. For disruption and change will throw them on unfamiliar ground.
They fear this very much.
Renewed organisations will promote employee participation, empowerment and devolution which pushes down responsibility to all persons involved. This ensures that individual efforts are aligned with organisational goals, hence promoting individual accountability.
Dr Muturi is the executive director, Kenya Institute of Management.