One of the most important achievements of the current economic downturn is that it has forced even multi-billion dollar businesses to re-think their strategy and execution. Only those who can adapt will survive the test of time – more so in a globalized economy. However, as humans, we are enslaved by our habits – which make it difficult to adapt to new realities. We are bogged down by the dogma of tradition and the comfort of yesterday’s success. The ability to be flexible varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This is what differentiates leaders from the rest.
The higher you are, the lesser visibility you have about the ground realities. This is especially true in a complex multi-layered organization. Irrespective of the field of business that an organization is in, chances are high that the results often come from the bottom of the pyramid: the people who make and the people who sell. The most important task in the hands of the management team is to ensure that productivity and efficiency is optimum at the bottom of the pyramid, where it matters the most. To generalize, at every level of an organization, it is very important to optimize the lower rungs of the value chain. Unfortunately, control, power of judgement and decison making lies at a different place than where it can be best made.
The most logical step to change this status quo is to empower people where it matters most. However, this cannot be done over night – and often, even if it is done, will prove to be counter-productive since it is difficult to gauge the bigger picture at that level. Thus, the need arises to find middle ground. Empowerment has to be gradual – and limited in such a way that it does not adversely impact other areas of the organization. Such a change should also allow more flexibility in decision making and foster frugal innovation.
However, the most difficult part for most leaders, is to go down the value chain and realize the need for such empowerment. Even more difficult is to understand what is happening at the edge of the organization. This is where true leaders and great organizations stand apart. Organizations that have chalked their strategy bottom-up will eventually come out of this downturn better and stronger, thanks to the attitude change from “leading from the top” to “leading from the bottom”. [tweetmeme source=”FlaringSparks” only_single=false]