When you close your eyes and try to visualize how things really get done in your organization, and by whom, what do you see?

Past blogs from Organimi have explored the need for organizational designs and decision making processes to evolve to reflect a changing operating environment. 

A couple of events this week provided the kernel for this blog.

Speaking early in the week, at TSXIgnite, a program sponsored by The Toronto Stock Exchange to promote the growth of early stage technology companies, was Sukhinder Singh Cassidy.

Sukhinder is a former Googler and more recently a co-founder of theBoardlist, a startup working to bring gender parity to boards in and outside the tech sector by profiling and promoting thousands of accomplished women suitable for board roles.  Her “always be recruiting” (ABR) message and discussion of her experiences as a serial entrepreneur provided interesting insights for the audience of startup founders and executives.  But it was the question she opened her talk with that caught our attention:

Would you rather manage the people who report to you, or be managed by them?

The overwhelming majority of those who expressed an opinion chose the former.  Sukhinder spent several minutes explaining to the audience why she preferred the latter – being managed by her reports – and why they should too.  It was a great insight into how the Silicon Valley mindset – the “tribe” as she referred to it – operates.

The week closed with a McKinsey Quarterly perspective on the topic:  “Why Effective Leaders Must Manage Up, Down and Sideways”, shared by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise.

The authors note that current organizational theory suggests that  “organizations benefit when people engage with their peers across functional and business-unit boundaries to bring a range of perspectives and drive change and innovation.”  They confirm that McKinsey research supports this conclusion.  Using evaluation data from almost 70,000 self and peer assessments involving individuals, as well as their bosses, peers, and subordinates, McKinsey found that mobilizing their bosses (managing upward) and functional colleagues (managing horizontally) “were about 50% more important than managing subordinates for business success (45% vs 30%),  and well over twice as important for personal career success (47 % versus 19%).”

The “table stakes” for achieving success include building great teams (remember Sukhinder’s “ABR” mantra), working hard to enhance team member skills, providing transparent feedback and performance measurement, and creating an environment of trust and loyalty.  

But to achieve superior results, you need to go further — not only by clearly aligning yourself with the agenda and strategy articulated by the company’s leadership, but by demonstrating a commitment (through your own perception and description of your role) to organization wide objectives, such as growth, profitability or customer satisfaction, while also making effective use of organizational resources, and mobilizing horizontally — “walking the halls, getting out of the office to share ideas with peers, listening to their concerns, and working jointly to attack strategic issues”.

As the authors note, those who follow these guidelines experience a “virtuous circle” of business success, organizational impact, and personal career growth.

If you want to build a “movement” within the company, lead from the front with an inspiring story to win the hearts and minds of colleagues, including those who don’t report to you, and with a clear action plan to deliver tangible results.

Are you managing down?  Managing up? Or managing all around you on your org chart?  More subtly, as Suhkinder would ask, are you letting yourself be managed up as well?

Managing up, down and all around.  Connected, communicating and collaborative organizations are critical for organizational and personal success in today’s dynamic environment.  And you can make a contribution – from anywhere on the org chart.

Are you trying to generate impact?  Organimi’s free org chart software is well suited to helping you improve your chances of doing so.  

Conduct your own thought experiment.  Draw your org chart from your point of view, identifying the individuals beside, and above you, as well as those below you.  How are decisions being made today?  And are you happy with what those decisions are, and where they are taking your organization?

If you are looking to build a movement, Organimi is a great place to start laying out your roadmap.