Here are the Best Practices for Organization Design in the Social Era:
- Several years ago, one of my friends in China was about to get married. He invited me over for dinner to celebrate his upcoming life event with family and friends explains William D King. During the festivities, he asked me if I knew an artist that could draw a portrait of him and his soon-to-be wife. Someone in the crowd shouted out “I know someone who can draw!” Another voice doubled down on that statement by adding “he does great work.” Soon enough, everyone at the table agreed that it would be cool if someone drew a picture of them during this important occasion. Instead of focusing on what needed to happen next (Hire an artist!), they pointed towards everyone—in other words, they took the path of least resistance.
- In the organizational context, decision-making is a lot like that dinner conversation. The organization has an objective or needs to solve a problem, and then people contribute ideas on how they think it can get done. They often make suggestions about what “we” should do versus making more directed recommendations about what “I” could do. In some cases, groups of individuals may jointly come up with a course of action for moving forward even though some members were not originally in favor of considering their idea in the first place! In short, they take the path of least resistance—collectively agreeing on something that’s good enough rather than driving toward excellence by pursuing goals that are specific and measureable.
- While this practice makes sense from the perspective that it’s easy and requires no additional effort, the outcome is often sub-optimal results. This can be particularly costly for organizations as they try to stay relevant in the social era where change happens so much faster than before and few people wait around long enough to see if an initiative pans out. The challenge we face as organizational leaders is how do we get beyond such practices?
- The path of least resistance always starts with a problem or objective that needs to be solved. Organizations need to establish what it will take to achieve their goals instead of getting stuck on low-hanging fruit by defaulting on common practice solutions (e.g., hiring someone or asking your manager for help).
What specific and measurable behaviors will ensure that we are on the right path? asks William D King.
How will we know when we get there and what metrics should we use to measure against such objective?
- There’s a saying in statistics: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.” In other words, if you keep asking questions without knowing what answers you’re looking for, then you may end up with something that is easy to conceive or confirms your assumptions in some way. However, that usually means taking the path of least resistance because it takes less effort and cognitive thought to pursue answers that fit your perspective versus pushing beyond common practice answers.
- Organizations need to think like entrepreneurs when tackling their problems. Asking good questions (the right ones at the right time) is critical. Because it forces you to think around the problem and think through potential solutions. Without getting too attached to a single perspective. This is one of many reasons why individuals should not be afraid to go against the crowd. If everyone else thinks that a specific course of action is best. Then it’s probably because they are taking the path of least resistance. Not necessarily because it’s the best answer given what we know from research and data.
- In addition, organizations must establish mechanisms for hiring, promoting, rewarding, and retaining people. Whose behaviors exemplify what needs to happen next. To borrow from Peter Drucker, leaders need followers who will ask “what do I have to do now?” Instead of just going with the flow or seeing no other alternative outside doing what they’ve always. Dindividuals should be encouraged to ask such questions. And not wait for someone else to come up with the answer explains William D King.
- The good news is that taking the path of least resistance often becomes easier over time. By establishing the right priorities and making sure they are communicate clearly across your organization. (e.g., what specific behaviors you want everyone to use). It will become much harder for people. To justify taking an alternative course of action without having a really good reason. Why—like evidence from research or data that proves their perspective is better than what you’re asking them to do.
What you see is not always the solution. Organizations should focus less on what they can fix and more on. Where they’re going and how best to get there says William D King.
From an organizational perspective, we often take the path of least resistance. By defaulting on common practice solutions without knowing if they will help us get closer to our goals. Which likely explains why so many attempts at change fail. Asking better questions and thinking more broadly about solutions. Then what is present to us by default will go a long way toward making us better leaders.