Involve front-line people in decisions

Command-and-control cultures segment their workforces into knowledge workers and everybody else. They pay knowledge workers to think and pay everybody else to carry out orders. In these cultures, collaboration is dead on arrival, because the organization effectively muzzles front-line workers who know how the business operates. In command-and-control companies, value creation suffers because management makes decisions in a vacuum without broad input

In a collaborative organization, on the other hand, all workers’ knowledge counts, regardless of their roles. Every team member contributes, shares knowledge, and participates in making decisions, whether he or she is loading crates, designing products, servicing customer accounts, creating tactical marketing plans, or determining long-term strategy. And most important, information flows in multiple directions rather than cascading from senior leadership down through multiple levels of management to front-line people.

A bank in Britain…wishes to stifle communication and collaboration among all but a small, elite group of employees…The bank considers only 5 percent of employees information workers. These are the people who develop marketing campaigns, produce products, create strategy, and supposedly think for a living. Management considers them the only team members whose opinions count. The bank considers the other 95 percent of people “costs to be optimized.”

Involve front-line people in decisions. Pay everybody to think. When people contribute to decisions, they have a stake in those decisions. And it works both ways. Often senior leaders are inhibited from engaging people on the front lines even though they need a front-line person’s knowledge in real time to make the right decision. His or her position may be three levels below that of the people making the decision. And there’s no time to go through channels. The executives never hear the front-line expert’s voice, and the decision suffers.

- Evan Rosen 

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