Work can be series of roadblocks. Throughout the years, there is one strategy that is by far the most effective for routing around impediments. Learn what it is to assert and respond and how to implement this technique.
- There's absolutely no question that technology has enabled us to build flatter organizations. The idea that a line employee could communicate directly with a company president was heretical in the previous century, and now it's common practice. Yet even as organizational hierarchies have flattened, the most frequent response I hear from anyone effected by dramatic change, whether it's in their own career or in their role as a manager is, well, what can I do? I'm just one person. Don't convince yourself that you just need to be passive.
Take the action you can take, communicate relentlessly, collaborate intensively, and adapt continuously. Let me tell you how. I was asked years ago for help by a manager in a bank's innovation department, to guide him in defining a new strategy for his group. He wanted to lay out a clearly defined set of very specific activities for his team, driven by a set of clearly articulated strategic goals, that were tied directly to the strategic goals of the organization.
Now he wasn't being asked to do this by his top management, or even by his direct supervisor. But this manager felt that having these strategic signposts would help him not only to guide his group towards the most important problems to solve, they would also help him craft an agreement with his supervisor about what success would look like for him in the coming year, for the group and for himself. So I suggested he use what is known as a balanced scorecard to structure how he articulated his goals. Years before when I was editorial director of a technology magazine, I had the pleasure of collaborating on a project with the creators of the scorecard.
And I felt this could be a good fit for what my bank client wanted to do strategically. But like most strategic alignment processes, a balanced scorecard is built from a model that requires a clearly articulated strategy by an organization's lead management. And then as each manager and employee determine how they contribute to one or more activities that support more of the strategic goals of the organization. There was just one problem. There was no written set of strategic goals for the bank organization. My client felt completely stumped.
How could he define his own goals without knowing what he needed to align within the organization? The answer came from a practice that I'd learned through prior conversations with a manager at Capital One, the credit card provider, which has a cultural practice called assert and respond. Now suppose that Amanda is roadblocked by Brian. Amanda needs a decision on a particular program to continue with her work on a project. Because it's a common cultural practice, Amanda is encouraged to assert what she thinks Brian would answer and to suggest a deadline.
So Amanda has a problem, Brian needs to get out of the way. If he responds with a different answer before the deadline, then Amanda can act accordingly. But if Brian doesn't respond in time, then Amanda is free to continue as if Brian had responded. This is assert and respond. So my suggestion to my banking client was go ahead and assert what you think the organization's strategic goals are and then design your group's goals accordingly. If the bank's management responds with a different answer, hey great, you can adapt to those new strategic goals.
But if they don't respond, you go along your merry way, contributing to the organization in the way you believe is most important. Now I can hear the consternation immediately. Doesn't that inevitably lead to anarchy? What kind of organization let's it's managers make independent decisions like that? Well my answer is, an adaptive organization, but we'll talk more about that in another video. So here's how this story ends. After completing the strategy engagement with my client, I looped back to him a few months later.
Lo and behold, his entire organization was implementing this strategic approach. Once the bank's management saw there was a vacuum in their strategic planning process, they rolled out this process across the entire company. So what's the take away for you? Don't let yourself simply fall into reacting. Use whatever power you can muster so you can be as proactive as possible. Assert and respond, you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish.
- Dealing with disruptive change and the new rules of work
- Establishing a new contract with workers
- Rethinking job qualifications
- Hiring for diversity and inclusion
- Identifying key skills for adaptive workers
- Helping your team become lifelong learners
- Leveraging automation for your team
- Becoming an adaptive manager
- Making human resources a partner
- Recognizing when your adaptive strategy is working