From Atlassian to Zappos the writing’s on the wall…it’s the perfect storm for SMEs.

As we see the dawn of a new focus on innovation in our government, it’s the perfect time to look to enterprise to see what innovation looks like in action and how we can drive our businesses to take advantage of the new world which has arrived almost unannounced.

innovation-and-SMEsJeff Diana, head of HR at Atlassian said last week that he wants to hire self directed people.  He also said he doesn’t want to manage them.  Those two statements are entirely consistent, but how do these concepts sit alongside our own management and leadership practices?  Zappos announced a flat organisation structure recently and offered 3 months salary to every employee who wasn’t prepared to lose the title ‘manager’.

A progressive Sydney based professional services organisation told me recently that they were encouraging their people to create their own role titles that reflect their contribution and what they actually do rather than what the organisation hierarchy wants to impose or portray.  In practical terms, they get across the billable fee structure challenge by designating role levels behind the role profile.  Sounds easy, and it is – just shows with the right mindset, solutions can be at our fingertips.

Innovative organisations, those that are leading the way in performance and growth, are bent on becoming more agile and responsive to client and market demands.  These qualities are the natural and long held domain of small to medium business who lack cumbersome hierarchies that hold larger businesses back.  So now it’s time to own it.  More over, where it was considered a distinct disadvantage to lack expensive enterprise systems, we now see organisations relieved of the burden of expensive infrastructure in fact more often than not actively wanting to shed it to make room for newer technology.  The Cloud, pardon the pun, is heaven sent for small to medium business.

All up, the opportunity here sits in relinquishing the need for management and command and control – it’s about moving to agile structures, systems and mindsets.  Letting go.  Here’s a useful concept to play around with – manage projects and lead people.  Yes, that’s right.  Management is a great concept when you are dealing with predictable outcomes through repetitive tasks.  Not quite what the new world of work has in mind for us.  Instead, let’s look to leading and coaching, supporting and mentoring our people to achieve great results, a by product of which is greater work satisfaction and better engagement, not to mention improved performance and productivity.   You can wave the worry of attracting great people and retaining them when you’re focussed on the more fundamental and empowering concepts of ownership and accountability of goals and purpose.  The long and the short of it is this – the people you need to bring into your business are attracted to a workplace which gives them great experiences, exposure to new and interesting things and opportunities to grow their skills doing new things.

Our challenge as leaders of tomorrow is to provide the tools and resources our people need for success, agree the expectations and let them take it from there.  And like all good coaches, stay close, check in regularly and guide towards success.  Scary for some, liberating for the businesses intending to survive in the mid to long term.

Written by TEC member Anna Moore, CEO at PlanDo