Creating Organizations As Amazing As The People Inside Them


The book subtitle in the headline above convinced me to read, Humanocracy, by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini. The authors present a fascinating look at how to breakdown the bureaucracy within your organization and unleash the power and true abilities of the human beings in your organization – making your organization more bold, entrepreneurial and as nimble as change itself. 

Humanocracy expertly lays out a detailed blueprint for creating organizations that are inspiring and ingenious, and provides you research-based examples, practical guidance and, most important, action steps to take immediately. 

The authors explain that: 

  • Human beings are resilient. Our organizations aren’t.
  • Human beings are creative. Organizations are (mostly) not.
  • Human beings are passionate. Our organizations are (mostly) not. 

Some of the broader themes for how to harness the power of humanocracy include: 

  • Teaching frontline staff to think like businesspeople.
  • Cross-train associates and organize them into small, multifunctional teams.
  • Pair new employees with experienced mentors.
  • Encourage employees to identify and tackle improvement opportunities.
  • Set ambitious goals and tight timelines to challenge everyone to do more with less.
  • Create teams that are small and where roles are loosely defined, and policies are flexible.
  • Treat every individual and role as indispensable to collective success.
  • Prize initiative and encourage individuals to take prudent risks. 

And, do your best to banish these common objections when solving for new problems and forging new paths: 

  • We don’t have the budget.
  • We'll never get it past legal.
  • That doesn’t fit our strategy.
  • That’s not our culture.
  • It’s impractical.
  • There’s a lot of downside. 

While you are breaking down bureaucracy within your organization, the authors also recommend you ask these 9 questions. Then, use your answers to identify areas for improvement. 

  1. How many layers are there from frontline employees up to your CEO/top position?
  2. What percentage of your time do you spend on “bureaucratic chores” (e.g. preparing reports, securing signoffs, participating in review meetings, etc.)?
  3. How much does bureaucracy slow decision making and action in your organization?
  4. To what extent are your interactions with your other leaders focused on internal issues (e.g. resolving disputes, securing resources, etc.)?
  5. How much autonomy do frontline teams have to design their work, solve problems, and test new ideas?
  6. How do people in your organization react to unconventional ideas?
  7. In general, how easy is it for an employee to launch a new project that requires a small team and a bit of seed funding?
  8. How prevalent are political behaviors in your organization?
  9. How often do political skills, as opposed to demonstrated competence, influence who gets ahead in your organization?

Finally, the authors encourage you help your employees think and behave more like entrepreneurs. Because, the greater the percentage of employees who agree with the following statements, the more entrepreneurial, nimble and creative your organization: 

  • My work is my passion.
  • I get to make meaningful business decisions.
  • I feel directly accountable to customers.
  • I intuitively think lean.
  • My team is small and super-flexible.
  • The success of this business depends critically on me.
  • I measure progress in days and weeks, not months and quarters.
  • Every day I have the chance to solve new, interesting problems. 

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


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