We are passing through an unprecedented crisis that will reshape the way we work. BearingPoint has developed a new organizational approach based on empowerment, contrasting with the traditional pyramidal structure. This new approach aims at providing both guidance to cope with the crisis and a new impulse for business recovery.
- How to deal with the sudden inefficiency of usual decision-making systems and predefined responses to problems?
- How to handle experienced people's feeling of helplessness when confronted with unknown and rapidly-changing situations?
- How to avoid an atmosphere of chaos caused by people’s overreaction based on intuition and gut feelings?
- How to prevent general disengagement of people reacting to fear by shifting their minds towards their individual survival?
It will be the leaders’ responsibility to ensure the efficiency of the new ways of working. The crisis will deeply change the role of leadership, many studies mention humility and listening skills as essentials, but our experience shows that, more than ever, employees’ empowerment will be needed to ensure process/company performance. Therefore, companies must develop employee’s autonomy in terms of both means and decision-making to address the following:
- Increase agility: When the crisis struck, companies had to radically change their way of working. As the future remains uncertain, it is even more important to be organized in a way that enables quick adaptation.
- Secure effective recovery: All segments of the economy are recording tremendous losses, recovery objectives will be very challenging. Cascading them quickly and properly throughout the organization is crucial.
- Improve / align processes: Clearly, today's processes are not aligned with the new ways of working (agility, resilience, digitalization, etc.). It is key to involve the true actors of the processes when adapting or defining them, and to implement a continuous improvement mindset.
- Meet employees’ expectations: Confinement (unemployment, remote work etc.) and ominous daily business forecasts generate anxiety among employees. Empowering them is a way to restore self-confidence and keep them motivated. They will be part of the decision makers.
Empower all level of the organization
Our experience showed that empowerment needs to be tackled at all levels of the organization:
Creating autonomous operational teams
- Create multidisciplinary teams united by a shared objective.
- Develop teams’ autonomy in means by providing them with skills and competencies on core-business related activities.
- Develop teams’ autonomy in decision-making by training them to use problem-solving tools and setting a continuous improvement mindset.
Setting up a structure management cycle
- Shift responsibility to the right people: not those with more experience but those capable of making quick decisions and correcting mistakes.
- Set up a quick loop through objectives cascading down through all hierarchical levels.
- Monitor performance to ensure fact-based decisions and avoid crisis panic effects.
Adopting a new top management mindset and role
- Set clear priorities and empower others to discover and implement solutions.
- Listen to employees and show empathy.
- Communicate with transparency on what is happening and celebrating achievements.
- More proximity of Management on the shopfloor to better apprehend reality.
Finally, the crisis highlights some pre-existing weaknesses: the need for customer satisfaction, performance, agility and employees’ wellbeing is not new, but it becomes more critical than ever to change now.
Empowerment is not a new trend either and it has proved efficient in all sectors: our Autonomous Organizations methodology will show tangible results such as simplification and acceleration of decision-making and will contribute to restoring trust.
Ewoud Huig, Partner
Fathi Trigui, Associate Director
Marie Ologoudou, Consultant