I work on a small nimble team that is part of a giant multinational corporation. Our team can move fast, adapts to change easy, and has almost no bureaucracy. On the contrary, our corporate headquarters (like so many large organizations) moves at an overly cautious pace, struggles with change, and has created a bonanza of bureaucracy over time. As a result, there is often a natural tension that arises between the clashing of cultures. At times folks over at headquarters can be a bit skeptical and even envious of our how our team operates. We are often frustrated and downright perplexed sometimes at how things operate over at headquarters. But does it really have to be this way?
I went to a technology ‘all hands’ meeting today and our company CTO spoke directly to this issue. He said that we as company tend to undergo a process of complexification for every decision that needs to be made, and as a result things take way too long to be decided. While this kind of self-awareness shouldn’t really surprise me since he seems like a bright guy, it nonetheless was a pleasant revelation. I’ve encountered many instances of this when dealing with the larger organization, and each time it leaves me in a state of exasperation bordering on despair.
It’s easy to sit where I am in the peanut gallery, on a small team that has a narrow responsibility that operates very independently, and lament about the inefficiencies and shortcomings of the larger organization. However, the truth is, it’s really hard to orchestrate dozens of different teams, stakeholders, business objectives, and market realities, which is what the executives at the company I work for must do. There is a reason why it is the default behavior of large organizations to suffer from indecision, and operate inefficiently.
But at the end of the day, even these natural tendencies can be overcome. Individuals, especially those in leadership positions, don’t just have to accept things the way they are - they can change them. In the meeting today my company CTO went on to say that from now on it is his expectation that all decisions have to be made quickly (for better or worse), and that he’d rather fail and change course than avoid acting in the first place. In other words, he wants to stop complexifying things and start simplifying things, which is music to my ear. It’s not clear to me yet whether these are just words, or if this is the new Law of the Land. I’m hopeful that he actually follows through with this new style of decision making, and am eager to see if things get simpler, or if the vast maze of bureaucracy continues to grow unabated.