Power and control are established by how organizations are structured. Instead of borders, there are layers and silos to divide the territory of the organization.
The layers of an organization represent, in a very simple way, the difference between executives, managers and workers. The layer is designated by their titles and roles. It is out of this way of structuring an organization that we define leadership as a role or a title, rather than how people function within their lives and work. In doing so, we are admitting that structure is central to how we see ourselves.
Perpendicular to the layers of an organization are the silos of communication that define the social structure of accountability. Here the invisible boundaries of political power within the corporate structure are played out. The silo is how responsibility and accountability flows. Responsibility flows down and accountability rarely flows up.
An attempt to solve this problem was tried through flat structures. But corporate structures are not flat, cannot be flat and resist ever being flat. Power and authority are hierarchical in modern organizations and societies. Though most problems in corporations are caused by its structural, the solution is not.
Recently I toured The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Since I rarely drink soft drinks, my interest was in their brand philosophy and marketing approach.
The Coca Cola Company is the master of product marketing. The tour celebrates the secret formula for Coke and the experience of sharing it with friends. There is a film at the beginning of the tour that associates warm, sentimental feelings with drinking and sharing a Coke. It is very effective.
Coke is selling a brand experience. The drink is associated with the experience. They want you to believe a serving of Coke is a vehicle for creating a happier, more peaceful world. Other beverage companies, like those who sell beer, market their products in a similar manner. It is about the experience of the drink, not the drink itself. It is a very clever, sophisticated approach that has made happiness synonymous with having a Coke with a friend.
As I walked through The World of Coke, I kept thinking about my brand in comparison to Coke’s. Like many people who speak, write, coach and consult, we also provide a brand experience. We have stories. We have brand colors that are intended to associate our brand with the experience of working with us. As I wandered through the exhibits, I wondered if I needed to change things. Later, I reviewed my brand design using the Circle of Impact model. Here’s what I learned.
Squeezed is the appropriate word. It is why people feel vulnerable, rather than them feeling the desire to be vulnerable.
This is vulnerability imposed from the outside, by the structures of the world and their companies.
The kind that Chris Lister writes about in his FastCompany article – I thought I knew what it meant to lead with vulnerability. Then I became CEO – is a choice that we make to be a particular way. Lister is correct. It isn’t as easy as Brene’ Brown suggests. Though I’m not sure Brene’ is saying it is easy but necessary.
The Two Global Forces describe a transition that is unprecedented in human history. The transition is from hierarchy to networks. It is emerging through two developments. The obvious one is how personal technology provides people the capacity for independent action like never before. The second is a growing awareness of a detrimental impact that organizational hierarchy is increasingly having upon human experience.
The Hong Kong Moment
An illustration of this historic transition is taking place in Hong Kong. Protesters are daily demonstrating against the Chinese Communist government in Beijing over its treatment of Hong Kong’s citizens. The protesters represent a force of decentralization against the highly centralized government of China.
What is a persistent, residual culture?
First, it is a culture that persists in spite of changes in society, leadership, strategy, or ownership.
Second, it is a culture that resides in the relationships of people who work in the company or live in the same community. It lives there regardless of support or resistance. It is a culture of belief in certain values that define who people want to be together in the varied functioning of their jobs.