Let me explain.
When a business gets big enough, the CEO hires managers. They answer to the CEO, and they each have people whom they manage. The reporting lines move up and down in each department. That’s the silo model.
But as the company continues to grow, it enters a phase that business author Les McKeown, of Predictable Success, calls Whitewater. Perhaps you’re there. You and those managers are surfing the waves, trying to keep your balance in the midst of the need to make decisions and act faster and faster. Life, my friends, has gotten more complex, and the silo management model no longer works.
You have two choices. Either scale back your business growth so that the vertical lines can continue to function independently. Or revamp how managers relate to each other.
For ongoing, predictable success, senior management must lead the whole team to not only manage vertically, but also to work collaboratively and laterally with their peers, the other managers.
This transition can be challenging, and it won’t happen overnight or without strong leadership. McKeown gives the following tips:
1. Be explicit about the addition of lateral management. Take the time to explain that there’s no going back to those simpler silo days. From now on, each manager must not only reach up and down, but also reach sideways to form a management team with his or her peers
2. Make managers’ meetings proactive. Seek to avoid problems, rather than always fixing them. As McKeown says, “Meet ahead of issues, rather than about issues.” This will minimize confrontation and maximize collaboration. I'd recommend a focus at developing great solutions instead of being a problem analyzer.
3. Model the benefits of lateral management. If the senior management team, including the founder/CEO, leads by example, change will cascade from there. You can get a jump start by leading your department in the needed direction.
4. When you need to hire a new manager, look for someone who understands lateral management and can mentor it. Seek people who have worked successfully in an organization with this model.
I would add a fifth tip:
Make sure you have a good CRM philosophy and system. Used effectively, it will provide information for the managers to share and base their solid decisions on. Knowing they all can rely on this shared CRM system will help them trust their peers and work as a successful team.
Is your business in the "white water" stage of development?
What tips do you have to share?