Movements provide us with a great example of what can be achieved when people get together to try to achieve goals. After all, the Arab Spring managed to bring about regime change in the Middle East. People organised themselves using social media and were able to rouse enough support to drive political change. But Greg Satell (2014) of Digital Tonto asks, if people can do that in such an organic way for specific interests such as to garner support for their movement, why it is not possible for organisations to operate in this way ?As Satell points out, in theory it should be much easier since the organisational structure is already in place allowing leaders to develop a vision and then get people moving in the right direction. However, that is much harder to do than imaginable.
Yet, as Satell points out, organisations do need to be able to get people to believe in their ideas and act on them in order to be able to achieve the flexibility to be able to compete in a market place that is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Satell argues with creating movements within organisations to be able to achieve these goals of flexible change.
Define A Mission
In his view, the first step towards achieving this is defining a mission and helping employees to understand that mission. One of the challenges is that many organisations develop mission statements but few check employee understanding, or even if employees have knowledge of the mission statement. Satell believes that a clearly defined mission has the benefit both of saying what the organisation will do, but also what it will not do. It is a single purpose which guides all of the activities of the organisation.
Create A Shared Context
The next step of creating a movement within an organisation according to Satell, is creating what he calls a “shared context”. This means that stating a mission is not enough. The employees, as they would be in a movement, have to be committed to the values and principles so that they support it. Satell argues that this is why Apple is great, because it makes sure that it has a mission of being “insanely great” and everyone who works there feels that way about the work. These values help to guide the work of individuals so that people want to work within them. When an organisation does this, its employees can achieve anything, and two interesting examples cited by Satell include McDonalds in India where many people are vegetarian, and Cosmopolitan in the Middle East, where attitudes towards sex are very different than in the West.
Manage organization networks
The third step of creating a movement inside an organisation according to Satell is managing organisational networks. Of course, as we have seen, movements are able to survive and thrive on their very unstructured organisation. However, as Satell argues, though movements may not have a detailed and defined hierarchy, the structure is nonetheless very important. Of course, as he also explains, it is often the informal structure of very structured organisations that leads to performance as well. This leads Satell to advocate for high performance organisations not having a structure that is either too tight or too loose.
Build Local Majorities
Satell’s fourth step of building a movement within an organisation is building local majorities. In his view organisations succeed because they are believed in and progressed by small, local groups, rather than by large, global directives. The challenge with the large, global directive is that as the task moves down the chain to different areas it becomes increasingly more complicated, as more people add a level of confusion to the process. Satell points out that this is probably why change efforts fail in organisations, since while it may be possible to get the executive team to agree on a directive, it is potentially hard to filter that through the organisation where there might be “local minorities” and diverse views about what should or should not be done.
All of this leads to Satell concluding that leadership needs to be able to adapt to the digital age. He believes that managers need to put efforts into local, informal ecosystems made up of small groups that are somewhat connected since they share a context. This means that in Greg’s view organisations cannot try and drive major initiatives across organisations, but instead need to rely on a small group of advocates, whose passion can allow the idea to expand.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.