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May 2, 2024

A Radical Enterprise Quick Start Guide for Business Leaders

By Summary by IT Revolution

Matt K. Parker’s book A Radical Enterprise presents a compelling vision for a new way of working based on team autonomy, shared leadership, fulfilling individual needs, and open vulnerability. By adopting these principles, pioneering organizations around the world like Haier, Buurtzorg, and Morning Star have achieved remarkable business success while promoting employee engagement and well-being.

This quick start guide distills the key ideas from the book into actionable steps that business leaders can take to begin transforming their own organizations. The path to becoming a radically collaborative organization is a journey, but these initial moves can set you on the right course.

Step One: Evaluate and Share the Case for Change

  • Conduct an honest assessment of levels of employee engagement, trust, and meaning at your company. Engagement surveys, focus groups, and attrition data can help surface issues.
  • Share the compelling data on the business benefits of radically collaborative organizations, which exhibit 32x more risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x greater performance than hierarchical peers.
  • Build urgency by highlighting how radically collaborative competitors may soon disrupt your industry, luring away top talent and customers.
  • Engage your leadership team in reading and discussing the ideas in A Radical Enterprise. Let the concepts convince them; avoid coercion.

Step Two: Experiment with Self-Managing Teams

  • Start by giving an existing team or forming a new team to take on a defined project, and give them full autonomy on the what, who, when, where, and how.
  • Have the team collectively define their goals and success metrics rather than imposing them top-down. Check that goals align with company priorities.
  • Let the team self-organize roles, responsibilities, and ways of working. They can still get advice from others, but they are empowered to make their own decisions.
  • Share learnings from the pilot team to build momentum. Resist the urge to snap back to a command-and-control style of working if things don’t go perfectly at first.

Step Three: Increase Transparency Around Compensation

  • Share salary bands for different roles and levels. Be prepared to rectify unfair disparities that greater transparency reveals.
  • Get employee input on evolving to a transparent, formula-based compensation model, such as the Deming pay system with set annual increases.
  • Decouple compensation from individual performance reviews, which are fraught with bias. Consider group profit-sharing instead.
  • Pilot self-set salaries in pockets to build trust. The experience of GrantTree and others shows employees will balance their pay with peer equity.

Step Four: Evolve Processes for Participatory Decision-Making

  • Start using consent-based decision-making practices, like the Advice Process, on decisions that impact multiple groups.
  • Form temporary, volunteer “leadership teams” to tackle cross-cutting issues, rather than relying solely on executives to decide.
  • Provide training on how to constructively surface and process disagreements and tensions that arise with more distributed authority.
  • Use tools like Holacracy’s governance meetings to enable anyone to safely propose changes to organizational structure and policies.

Step Five: Measure and Nurture Psychological Safety

  • Start assessing individuals’ experience of security, trust, esteem, belonging, etc. See if scores improve as you adopt more radical practices.
  • Train people on requesting and receiving feedback to make them feel secure being vulnerable. Admit mistakes to model openness.
  • Carve out time for relationship-building, such as “pod groups” that exist purely to deepen cross-functional connections.
  • Celebrate families for admitting struggles or failures, rather than just shining a spotlight on successes. Talk openly about challenges.

Step Six: Expand Autonomy and Self-Management

  • Incrementally increase the scope of team autonomy, such as letting them choose what to work on next or even what products to develop.
  • Shift from static functional reporting into dynamic, project-based structures. Fluidly reform teams as priorities evolve.
  • Have executives, HR and finance start approving decisions made via self-management rather than making them.
  • Provide ample training and support as people take on new managerial responsibilities. Allow mistakes in the spirit of learning.

Step Seven: Hardwire Collaboration and Equity Into Systems

  • Examine hiring, onboarding, development, and promotion systems for biases and barriers to inclusion. Update to integrate new collaborative values.
  • Revise budgeting, capital allocation, and strategic planning to allow more participatory input from all levels. Make resource flows transparent.
  • Ensure office space and digital tools enable rather than obstruct fluid collaboration across levels and boundaries.
  • Regularly assess if symbols and rituals (e.g. executive perks) contradict espoused radical principles. Evolve culture to walk the talk.

Conclusion

Transforming an organization to be radically collaborative is a long-term, iterative process. The key is to start experimenting, gather evidence that the approach works in your context, and scale up progressively. Leaders must role model vulnerability, engage everyone in co-creating the future, and avoid reverting to coercion when the going gets tough.

The powerful examples in A Radical Enterprise show that unleashing human potential through autonomy and collaboration is not only possible but hugely beneficial to both individuals and business results. By following the steps in this guide, you can begin experiencing those benefits while blazing a trail toward a truly radical enterprise. The journey will be challenging, but immensely rewarding. As more organizations embrace radical collaboration, we can together create a world of work that brings out the best in humanity.

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