I posted a shameless job advert a while ago. It sketched the characteristics of people I call lighthouses.
I said I would come back to it and explain more about them. To cut a very long story short, lighthouses make management easier, faster and considerably more enjoyable. You have to manage the risks of having favourites (let’s not kid ourselves here, that’s what they are) but it is worth it.
The customer service team I am responsible for are in seven primary sites around the world. My diary is rather stretched. There are numerous further complications, mostly driven by change and growth. They are good problems to have, so I will spare you.
Overall we strive to get better at what we do every day. In some areas that is attritional, driven by hypothesis, fact and action. At other times we rip it up and start again.
Success is happy customers and a happy team. I want us to get better faster though. Just to really complicate matters, I insist we enjoy it all as well.
So what to do?
Well, we have top class infrastructure, connectivity, systems and superb collaboration tools. We strive to do the necessary operational stuff around metrics, continuous improvement, systems evolution, people development, objectives, reviews, controls and so on.
That allows us to manage the averages, play the percentages and get it right, most of the time. It allows us to move as quickly as a hierarchy can think, decide and act.
While some things, like accountability, necessitate hierarchy, much else is hindered by its lumbering pace.
The thing is, you can operate and change quickly through a network. The secret of the effective network? Lighthouses.
I listed their characteristics in https://jtdots.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/lighthouses-required/ . I forgot to point out the obvious, that they get things done at the speed of light and are not hierarchical but topographical, in that they exist at all levels in the org chart and at all locations. Increasingly, my map includes lighthouses outside my team. They all accelerate day to day operations, crisis management and, most amazingly, knowledge driven change.
Lighthouses are my favourites (gasp!). They are common in my immediate team for obvious reasons, but I know who all the others are, where they are, who they are connected to, who they can influence, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. Crucially, everyone else knows all that too.
Who can can access this network? Anyone. It is open, like all the best networks.
Some of them come to our team meetings as a matter of routine, even though the hierarchy says they shouldn’t. The team can work with them to get things done anywhere at any time. They connect to each other. I rarely get involved in making that happen. Best of all, while I recognise some the moment I meet them, others emerge later. They are my favourite favourites. I suspect that is utterly inexcusable!
Boringly, you can’t throw away the hierarchy, unless you particularly want another Jimmy Saville or Joseph Stalin that is.
Find your Lighthouses, encourage them (repeatedly), give them tools, goals, a license to play and a reason to smile and you are pressing the corporate, charitable, political or social accelerator and manage at the speed of light. You are also about to have a bit of a hoot.