Has Your Organization Developed a Stonehenge Structure?

If it has, you know it is time to act – quickly!

Recently, we were invited to present to the management of a large, global corporation. Although the company is currently doing well, financially, the executive board wanted to initiate a culture shift with the goal to strengthen the emotional engagement of the team. There was no clear indication that employees weren’t engaged, however, the executives recognized the need to change as a response to the shifting values in our society. Their point: People are asking for more genuine, authentic and meaningful connections – both to their colleagues as well as to organizations they are involved with.

Essentially, the executives stated: “Our employees are loyal and happy. But we would like them to have deeper conversation that allow for more controversy, so they can improve and learn from each other.” Preparing for our presentation, we interviewed about two dozen individuals involved with the company: employees, executives, customers, even individuals that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the organization but had a distinct opinion from following the company in the news. After only a few interviews it became clear that the company was suffering from what I call a “Stonehenge Structure” – that every department, even groups within a department, were quasi-isolated from other departments, and that the few hundred upper managers had become a group on itself, positioned squarely on top of the individual departments.

If your company has adopted the Stonehenge Structure, it's time to change - quickly!

People from different departments were obviously communicating in meetings and strategy sessions, but without any honest and meaningful information or input exchanged. Everybody was tiptoeing around. Departments held their information, insights and opinions close to the vest, and so they were all getting along just fine – at least that’s how it appeared to the executives of the firm. Upon closer examination, however, it turned out that the majority of the people we interviewed were deeply frustrated about the situation, even about working at the company. Their typical statement: “I have to watch every word I say. That’s really frustrating.” In addition, the upper management team – the square rock on the top – had become a group in itself, disconnected to what’s really going on in the minds of their employees.

“Aside from the frustration and building disengagement”, we asked our interviewees, “how many ideas – how much innovation and synergies do you think are lost as a result of this structure?” Their estimate: between 25% and 50% of the company’s potential. Coincidence? Guesswork? Maybe a case specific to this organization? Possible, but I don’t think so. Even if only a fraction of the estimated potential is lost as a result of this structure, it’s time to act – quickly – before high-performers are looking elsewhere for opportunities. As a matter of fact, we received calls after our presentation from executives that were indeed dissatisfied with the situation that they were already looking for a new job.

How can we change the Stonehenge Structure?

Obviously, it is very difficult to move the standing rocks (the departments) without moving the top rock (the structure of the upper management). Without changing the top rock, first, we’re signing up for a serious challenge. But imagine the top rock breaking its structure and turning into molasses or water, filling the gaps between the standing rocks. This would create a strong unit without an immediate need to move the standing rocks (meaning without the need to change perceptions and behaviors of each employee). Ultimately, building a strong company culture may well require moving the standing rocks, but I believe that the first step must be to move the top rock (the upper management).

What does this top-management change entail? First and foremost genuine interactions and a true care for people. No fake interest. Genuine, authentic connections that break the “we-and-them-paradigm”, and which instead enable truthful and honest conversations. Upon presented to the executives of above mentioned corporation, we learned that the CEO had recently pursued “direct interaction with sales people and customers”. Turns out that his driver took him to one of their sales outlets in town. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about Zappos, the internet shoe retailer that’s known for its unique company culture and customer service, and wondered why their leadership team hasn’t turned into a Stonehenge Structure. Maybe because Zappos requires every new employee – from sales rep to top executive – to work the customer service phone lines for several weeks before they step into their “real” roles within the company.

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Why You Need to Graduate from MSU

Peace of Mind for Challenging Times

In challenging situations our mind has the phenomenal ability to create fantastic realities – which in most cases never come to pass. Every one of us knows what it is like when our head takes us on a wild ride and Makes Stuff Up. Particularly in these days of financial turmoil, take a look around you and you find incredible stories happening right between people’s (or your) ears.

Mark Twain’s said: “I have been through some terrible things in life, some of which have actually happened!”

To obtain peace of mind and centeredness so we can enjoy the presence of our families during the coming days of Thanksgiving, we need to graduate from MSU – from Making Stuff Up! An outside perspective can be the necessary impulse to shift our thoughts. With this in mind, I hope you will enjoy the following thoughts from the Elders of the Oriaibi, an Arizona Hopi Nation – individuals that are likely able to provide us with a true outside view on the current economic climate:

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.

And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your
water?

 

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

 

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there
are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They
will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the
river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push
off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above
the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

 

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all,
ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes
to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the
word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now
must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve
been waiting for.

 

 

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