“I Work Better In A Spontaneous Manner As Structure Around Me Suppresses My Potential” (Lesson 4)

Having worked with clients who pride themselves on having a culture based on spontaneity, where they actively resist any framework as this stifles their creativity, it becomes apparent that they are not reaching their fullest potential. Instead, they lose their hold on their market share. Let’s look at an example.

One company that started from the ground up began with a small number of people. The best approach for them at the time was spontaneity; it worked well for them. A quick conversation across the desk could move them in a new direction quickly, which resulted in them dominating a growing market.

However, as the company gained ground, more people were needed to keep up with demands. The spontaneity that had contributed to their fast success was now creating chaos—poor customer support, a lack of continuity, and inadequate performance—which led to the company losing their market share.

Slipping from being number one in their market to number three was a reality check for this company. They opened their eyes to other possibilities and sought out help to implement change.

After discussing options, they opted to try a framework that fitted their purpose. Although the discipline initially felt like it was slowing them down, over time they found that this framework gave them the freedom to pursue their creativity. Plus, it enabled them to regain their lost market share.

However, if this company had failed to alter their structure to meet the demands of the marketplace, then it is highly likely they would have continued to lose market share. As a result, this company would have joined a long list of business failures in Australia.

Keeping Structure Simple

It is also vital that as a business you don’t make your structure too complicated. Over complicating structure makes simple tasks difficult and extremely time-consuming. So, what should have taken minutes, now takes hours. Such complication reduces productivity in business, and this erodes profitability. Complicated business structures also lead to role confusion, procedural issues, and a lack of coherence.

Some of Australia’s most successful businesses have simple structures. Many of these structures are based on frameworks founded on the trust and respect of the employees and the customer—without which any business will fail to deliver.

For example, the Australian company Atlassian is famous for its five values that guide “what we do, why we create, and who we hire.” These values are printed on the t-shirts that the staff happily wear. While this appears to be a novel concept, this visibility unifies the team; all staff know what’s expected of them, and the customers know what to expect of the company.

Thus, a framework that’s connected to purpose and easily followed and interpreted by all within the business, leads to success. It’s a little like thinking of a business’s structure like we do an AFL game (Australian Football League). In an AFL game, there’s a field with lines marked around the perimeter, and goal posts. To score you must kick the ball through these goals. These aspects of the game are all pre-determined. So they represent a framework or structure that needs to be followed to be successful or to win the game. If you don’t follow the game rules, then you’ll be penalised, which can lead to your team losing the match.

By following this framework all AFL players understand the rules; they know what expectations others have of them, and how they can be successful. These rules give all players a clear direction; they know what they must do to achieve success. But, once the initial ball is bounced anything can happen, so they also use their skills and creativity to achieve results; they run fast, change direction and jump higher, all so they can win the match, be successful and claim victory.

If we compare an AFL game to a business, we discover that they have a great deal in common. The AFL game has structure, as does a successful business.  Both have rules in place that enable them to achieve results. All players know these rules, and, while they follow them, they can also use their creativity to increase the impact that these rules have, which in a business sense means the staff can go out of their way to help customers, make the experience more memorable, and connect on a higher level. These aspects take an ordinary encounter with a business and make it extraordinary, one that a customer remembers and shares with others; it creates an illusion of magic.