What does adhocracy in your business mean? I was introduced to the idea of business adhocracy by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 publication Future Shock. After completing their BS degrees Mr. Toffler and his wife Heidi moved to the Midwest, where both invested five years as blue-collar laborers. The futurists used this experience to help them understand industry from the ground up. They saw first-hand how the speed of change was forcing adaptation. Bureaucracy was the system needed to organize the machine of the industrial revolution, but the world was moving faster; too fast for bureaucratic systems to function properly.
What Does Adhocracy in Your Business Look Like?
In the book, Toffler shares this scenario. A machine malfunctions; the operator contacts his supervisor, who in turn contacts the head of repair, who then informs the repair person. When the pace of change could be measured in decades—bureaucracy worked. Employees expected to work 30 years at one company, and managers held enough direct knowledge to make decisions at every level. In an adhocracy, the machine operator contacts the repair person directly, saving time and improving communications.
Today’s bureaucratic structures don’t work, at some level, in most organizations. Unlike the plant manager of a manufacturing operation at the turn of the 20th Century, today’s CEO isn’t qualified to manage every task in every department. How could one person possess the knowledge to accomplish this? Professionals, such as chemists, computer programmers, and engineers, need to work independently, or they’ll be perpetually slowed. Modern marketing professionals, social media administrators, and copywriters have a complete grasp of their disciplines compared to the working knowledge of the COO or CEO. So, what’s the C-level staff to do, give up control?
Leadership in the 21st Century
Yes and no. When C-level staff micro-manages activities, processes may be impaired. However, when leadership shares a vision allowing those with direct knowledge to form the process, another level of effectiveness may be realized. It was easy to understand how Toffler’s example of machine repair was inefficient. Still, managers may not realize they do the same thing when they interfere with processes outside their expertise.
How to Create Adhocracy in Your Business
One sure tactic for getting in the way, slowing things down, and causing mistakes is to micro-manage. On top of that, it can lead to indecision by the team, who begin second-guessing themselves. Rather than make a decision or come to a conclusion, they go to management for answers, which slows the process and may lead to a poor decision when not based on the knowledge of team members directly involved with the task. Here’s more, Are You Sure Your Not Micro-Managing?
Share power and responsibility
Hand out responsibilities to teammates who earned your trust and give them the tools they need to complete the task successfully.
Teach your team how to solve problems. When they know how you would approach a problem, they don’t have to come to you. WWTBB What would the boss do? 7 Steps to Problem Solving and More
In his book, Failure: The Secret to Success, Robby reminds us what failure can become, “What do Michael Jordan, Coca-Cola, the Panama Canal, Warner Bros., and Ulysses S. Grant have in common? They were all miserable failures.” None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, so don’t expect your ad hoc team to be mistake-free. Because if you set that expectation, they’ll stop making decisions. What you should expect is the failure becomes a learning experience.
Create a culture of adhocracy
Make it the norm for the machine operator to go directly to the repair person. Apply this expectation to everyone on your team. When a team member doesn’t make an ad-hoc decision, use it as a teaching moment.
Business Adhocracy or Bureaucracy?
Most organizational charts are outdated before they’re finalized; people and positions don’t fit into smooth flow charts, and too many things are happening too fast. Ad Hoc leaders keep up with the ever-increasing rate of change in today’s business world, do you?
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So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.