POPULARISED BY ISAAC GETZ IN 2009, CAN THE TERM « LIBERATED COMPANY » APPLY TO AN SME?
FIRSTLY, WHAT IS A LIBERATED COMPANY?
As you will see from the many articles on the subject, the concept of a liberated company is based on the idea that employees are best placed to know what to do internally to make the company work and to operate at maximum possible effectiveness. Just give them more autonomy and greater responsibility and trust them, using their intelligence to release creativity and encourage innovation. The belief is that « the happier an employee is in their job, the more efficient they are ». This concept runs counter to the classic organisation of a business, which is often steeped in bureaucracy and complex processes – where the imposition of a pyramid hierarchical structure focusses on controlling employees. This approach is conducive neither to employees’ personal fulfilment nor their performance.
The vast majority of SMEs – due to their size – are rarely overburdened with procedures and hierarchical structures. Therefore, it would seem, that there is no significant gain to be had from their liberation. Yet on a daily basis, in our involvement with our SME clients, we see that there could be greater commitment from employees. What prevents this?
There are actually several factors, but surprisingly, the most important is the Owner/Manager! Trapped by everyday matters, they are unable to genuinely delegate tasks which would enable them to escape the « one-man-show » and to take full advantage of all the skills available in their company.
IT SEEMS, THEREFORE, THAT the liberation of AN SME first requires the liberation of the manager AND that they learn TO DELEGATE!
To liberate themselves and learn to delegate, the Owner/Manager will have to break down a number of psychological barriers such as:
- Their high level of competence, leading to perfectionism and a need to be in control
- Problem with accepting that things can be « done differently »
- Difficulty in adjusting the level of control depending on who they’re dealing with
- Fear of partial loss of power
- Concern that the company -or even their own image- will suffer
- The belief that they can do things faster and better than anyone else
- Inability to accept quality loss of deliverables, even if only temporarily
The Manager will need to step out of their comfort zone and « dare to trust ». This involves much questioning on their part and also on the part of their employees. They will have to assume the consequences of this “liberation” and of the trust placed in them. It’s sometimes easier just to be a good little soldier …
A SECOND ASPECT TO CONSIDER IS ESTABLISHing A CLEAR AND MOTIVATional COMPANY PROJECT ALLOWING Everyone TO LOOK to the future AND BUILD A SHARED DREAM.
You begin this by drawing up a Vision and Mission for the business, in which you clearly define the values you stand by and the reasons the company exists. You set goals. You create a strategy, which is the way to achieve these goals, and deploy it through operational plans covering other growth drivers such as Marketing, Sales, Organisation and Finance. You, as the Owner/Manager, play the central role in this initiative, but it is also beneficial to rely on the company’s staff and ensure that everyone can contribute. Depending on the size of the company, several possibilities exist, such as setting up working groups around specific subject areas (Customer Service, Digital, International etc).
A THIRD IMPORTANT ASPECT IS ESTABLISHING A SYSTEM OF RECOGNITION WHICH REWARDS PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE PERFORMANCE.
Part of this recognition must of course be financial, and this sometimes involves introducing a new policy of more motivational remuneration. But this recognition must take other (non-monetary) forms, which must nevertheless be equally rewarding for employees. Here, you can be creative. One example is the instance of an SME with a dozen employees in which a Works Council was set up to organise leisure and cultural activities for employees and their families. This incurs additional cost for the company, but the gain in performance is likely to largely offset the expense.