An often-used metaphor to describe the concept of business is the armed forces. You have the general at the top and a series of levels of hierarchy below – right down to the lower ranks who go off to fight the war as soldiers, sailors or pilots.
The reason this metaphor is used so often in business is that, to all intents and purposes and despite any criticisms levelled against it, it’s one of the most efficient models to control large numbers of people in the pursuit of a single purpose.
This model exists in religious institutions, NGOs and educational institutions, too. One of the biggest criticisms against the model is the inefficiencies of ‘silos’ (or downlines) which, through a lack of communication, either produce duplication of work or have different departments pulling in different directions creating friction and further inefficiencies.
One of the ‘rules’ of this type of system is that the hierarchy speaks downward through the ranks to the people. In other words, if I want one of my subordinates to get one of their subordinates to perform a task, I have to ask my subordinate to instruct their subordinate. This creates a barrier and, in most instances, a loss of fidelity in the original message which is obviously not ideal.
Breaking the hierarchy
‘Reverse periscope’ is a concept that has been defined and embraced by us to remedy this inefficiency and loss of fidelity.
In most organisations, managers see their teams and departments as their own personal fiefdoms. The idea of someone other than the manager communicating directly or even instructing their team is uncomfortable and can sometimes be perceived as undermining their authority. Most corporations have an incredible political etiquette around not overstepping these unwritten laws of hierarchy.
But the loss of fidelity is not unidirectional; it’s omnidirectional. Staff at the coalface of the organisation who have issues or ideas usually …
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Read this article by Allon Raiz, Raizcorp, as well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the February/March 2019 edition of BusinessBrief.
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