We frequently hear calls for organizations and groups to be more entrepreneurial, to assume the responsibility for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. In the private sector this is a good thing, most of the time. But even here we don’t necessarily want every employee thinking out of the box. We don’t want the fast food franchise fry cook to try something new or improve on the recipe. McDonald’s is popular in part because of its predictability and consistency.
We don’t want conventional government departments to be entrepreneurial either. Bureaucracies have developed an unwarranted reputation for being unresponsive to the needs of their stakeholders and clients, but much of this is a consequence of poor political leadership and planning. Government departments operate on the basis of an established hierarchy of responsibility and authority and it’s this structure that gives us confidence that the organization is indeed accountable. And at the end of the day, the minister is on the hook for everything.
But where we do need entrepreneurial and innovate thinking, we need a different organizational structure that is flatter. This organization relies on greater autonomy for its employees rather than hierarchical decision-making.
Where speed is critical, we need maximum flexibility.