The greatest barriers to growth are internal. What can leaders do about it?
80 hour weeks. Packed schedules. Endless meetings. Overflowing inboxes. Unrealistic deadlines. Sunday afternoon mails. All nighters. No time to think. Chats blowing up.
Once considered “normal” among start-ups and the ad industry, has in fact, become mainstream. Is the problem remote work? Or is it symptomatic of a broken culture that prioritises the optics of work vs the substance of it?
As firms look beyond the pandemic into recovery, the biggest barrier to growth is not external but internal according to a study by Bain & Company.
Burned out teams won't help you reinvent. High performance, creativity, collaboration and innovation won’t just magically happen. The right conditions are designed and modelled by those at the top.
So what can CEOs do to create, retain and sustain a team climate for innovation?
- A bold mission.
Almost all great companies start as insurgents, with a bold mission to redefine their industry on behalf of underserved, or new and emerging, customers.
It’s the answer to all the key “why” questions—“Why do we exist?,” “Why should people care?” and “Why does it matter?”
Too often, companies lose their sense of insurgent mission as they grow. Size creates complexity which inhibits growth. It creates bureaucracy, slows down decision making and creates a culture of risk-aversion rather than experimentation.
A bold mission gives leaders focus and a long-term horizon. To be world class at a few things important to customers without being defined or constrained by the industry in which they first competed in.
- Build your mission into organisational design and culture.
Not as fuzzy team building activities but as mindsets, behaviours, tools and practices that create the right conditions for teams to flourish.
Often criticized for its brutal work culture, Amazon has maintained its Day 1 entrepreneurial mindset despite its size.
Key to this is its focus on writing as a management tool to educate, align and enforce rigour in decision making. Powerpoint presentations are famously banned. Instead, meetings begin in silence with a reading of detailed six page memos which identify where the company should place its focus and why before a real discussion of the material takes place.
Amazon's founding mission and principles still guide everything from setting objectives and key results to hiring and feedback, employee grading and upgrading, to compensation and rewards. Systems have been honed over time by people and events, by past successes and failures to become a deep part of company lore.
- Give co-workers agency to build the team experience they want.
As company leaders grapple with what the return to the office should look like, take the opportunity to think carefully about which parts of work should be done in person, which should be virtual and which can benefit from a mix.
Ask co-workers for their perspective on time, technology, and togetherness to rethink how you work — and specifically, how you meet. Then design toward that ideal.
Teams today want more alignment, better decision making and of course, a sense of agency and ownership. They should have the power to improve the routines and systems that affect their day to day work. And not have to wait for a distant executive to issue mandates.
"The C in CEO stands for culture" - Satya Nadella
Most CEOs have varying levels of disinterest in getting involved in the muck of HR and culture building. The unspoken assumption is that people will only be at their jobs for a few years so there's little motivation to create the right conditions for teams to flourish.
Customers and employees have reset their priorities and needs. Business face unprecedented constraints and challenges. It is a time of deep change that demands reinvention. And critical to this will be your teams' capacity to reinvent.
Our methodology can help you build a team climate for innovation.