In my last post, I discussed having great company DNA. If you were to view your company as a living, breathing organism, keeping it healthy is the most important thing. As proper nutrition and exercise is needed for our bodies to thrive, our businesses cannot remain healthy if they aren’t injected with something to provide growth and if they don’t move with the innovation of the times. Stagnancy leads to death.
Right now the retail industry along with many others, are struggling to find their place in a new business environment, brought on at first by the internet-age and now enhanced by the social-age. It’s like a whole new atmosphere for the business organism to get used to and it puts into question what the new nutrition and exercise is, in order to keep it healthy. – How do you adapt when change has become the new constant?
Outside of all the new tech and IT infrastructure you may have in place, (or are thinking to put into place) to create an omnichannel world for you and your customers, perhaps another thing to look at is your company’s internal bureaucracy.
When you hear the word “bureaucracy”, it tends to make people shudder and picture suffocating red tape. The word has become synonymous with complex, inefficient, and inflexible government administration. Bureaucracy has had its roots in history, leading to the creation of organizational pyramids (top down control) that helped mass production become efficient for the industrial age. Organizational bureaucracy today still mostly uses the age-old pyramid format, but it is beginning to change. – It has to.
Innovation spawned this new environment of constant change that just plain cannot co-exist with stagnant bureaucracies. The growth and creep of bureaucracy in retail is a definite hindrance to innovation, specifically in corporate decision-making. Cumbersome bureaucratic processes and a general culture of unwillingness to change, opens the doors for smaller, less bureaucratic retailers who have the flexibility to make quick decisions. They can pivot and gain strategic advantage before you even notice it.
Montreal born, Frank & Oak is an example of a company that did just that. Having started as a website selling oxfords and denim to creative male professionals using a membership model, they have let innovation be their guide and see this new constant change environment as stepping stones to success. They can climate-adjust quickly and as a result, have been able to expand to include physical store locations all the while amassing a huge membership clientele.
So, can bureaucracy and innovation exist in the same universe? I acknowledge that all businesses need some sort of administrational structure. The challenge is to align your team with your company’s vision in a way that makes it not about the paycheck. Fire them up with that vision and allow them to be internal activists for it and reward them. Create an environment of new-thinking and greatly involve them. Take some risks, go around channels, launch experiments. If you have an environment where your company’s vision is your entire team’s passion to pursue, you may be on the road to being the defining example of how an organizational structure can co-exist with innovation and ride its coattails to success.
The rigidness of bureaucracy on the other hand, not re-invented, will not co-exist with innovation, in my opinion. – Not in this universe, anyway.