Does your organisation have the secret sauce?

Blog by Michael Whereat, ASCA President

Every generation seems to focus on a word or phrase to define the next most important iteration of what it means to drive change.

Right now, smart seems to be the flavour. Resilience is also beginning to get a look in and digital has been used by others. A decade, ago, it was the creative economy. If we take a long view back to the middle of the last century, it was terms like modernisation and development. But these terms in their own right do not provide the secret sauce. That has a far more human flavour.

I have been told that in traditional Chinese organisational structures there is a common practice where there is the official leader and then there's the aptly described “other head guy”. The first fulfils all the formal defined and traditional functions and the second performs a more complex and unwritten role in the organisation. This person does not necessarily have a senior position. There may, in fact, be a number of these people across the organisation.  The other head guy is recognised as the person who:

  • is respected by the organisation's members
  • is able to influence the traditional leadership, and
  • helps to facilitate change outside of the formal arrangements.

What does this have to do with the secret sauce?

The secret sauce is where the traditional leadership recognises who the “other head guy” people are and actively harnesses their involvement in the delivery of change. This is not done by running surveys or process driven techniques. It's best done by listening and identifying this that fulfils this role.

Does this resonate with you and your organisation or is it a foreign concept? I have seen it in a wide range of Australian environments and internationally. Look for organisations which are performing well above their size, position and where normal metrics don’t account for the exceptional achievements to find where it exists.

I would also look for an organisation which takes a human-centric approach to everything it does. It understands what their clients and customers want and why that matters. It will not determine the next significant strategy based on the knowledge of a few execs.

Finally, the organisations with the secret sauce will recognise that:

  • to be truly innovative is to do something different that is successful
  • celebrate failure and recognise that taking on and trying something different requires failure to occur
  • use design thinking to develop new processes not regulatory driven instruction
  • innovation and change is not about ideas, it is about culture
  • through human-centric design, they can achieve organisational transformation
  • that the rapid shoots of new industries and types of work on one side means there is a need to weed and prune, restructure and adapt to the future as it happens
  • everybody in the company is responsible for innovation
  • taking the first step begins by just doing something.

Do you work for an organisation with the secret sauce? I hope so. If you don’t, use some of the points above as questions you should ask when you apply for your next job. I know I consider these things in the way I work every day.

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