One of the things I find really interesting, when working within different organizations, is how everyone feels they are the true center of the universe. If they are in Security, they see things one way. If they are in Program Control, they see it another. Regardless of the silo, plug in the functional area name and there will be different processes to follow. They each have a different agenda that motivates them. Even those considered as project/program overhead (Human Resources) will have their own way of doing things.
Do I see something wrong with this scenario?
Do I think the organization could deliver more value if it were more goal driven and less process driven?
What’s missing? I think it’s knowing where within the organization structure everyone is and how each can work together to reach the larger goals.
The larger the institution or project, commonly, the larger the bureaucracy that accompanies it. We have our Executive bureaucracies, Director bureaucracies, and Manager bureaucracies. Each step down the organizational chart, there is layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Rather than the people at the top thinking more strategic and people toward the bottom thinking more tactical, there are just different shades of bureaucracy. And you think that’s bad, each (functional) branch of the organization has its own bureaucracy.
Commonly, people become too focused on their key subject matter in their functional area and forget the goals of the project or organization. I see motivations shift to support the process itself instead of the product or service to be delivered. When asked to do something that may directly apply to the highest goals of the organization, like “Deliver the product to the customer by this date”, they act like their individual job is more important than getting the overall job done. Instead of asking themselves what they can do to help the organization be successful, they may instead argue some point about how you didn’t submit the request in the correct format, to the correct person, at the correct time.
But this post is not about being pessimistic about bureaucracies. I’m not saying we don’t need structure or processes. This short story helps articulate what I’m trying to explain.
Perhaps you have heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest of English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul’s cathedral in London which he had designed. “What are you doing?” he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, “I am cutting a piece of stone.” As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, “I am earning five shillings twopence a day.” And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.” That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a work of art- the building of a great cathedral.
And in your organization or on your project, it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger goal.
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