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Flat Army by @dpontefract

08.11.2013
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There is an overwhelming sense that things are changing in the business world.  They’re changing slowly, but they’re changing.  Over the past decade, thinkers such as Gary Hamel and Julian Birkinshaw have been advocating the flipping of the traditional organisation structure to create a more inclusive and democratic.

In recent years the social business movement has very much joined this particular bandwagon, with the social tools and philosophies very much fitting in with this ideal for creating organisations that empower employees from all corners.

Flat Army by Dan Pontefract is very much keeping with this zeitgeist.  Thankfully however he avoids the trap many dedicated social business books fall into by talking sparingly about the tools and software that can underpin the kind of changes he advocates.

Dan begins by talking about the poor levels of employee engagement evident in many of our organisations.  He uses this as the basis for his theory that we need a new means of managing in order to both improve engagement levels but also to improve productivity and performance levels.

He goes on to explain his beliefs on how leaders can implement this philosophy.  He outlines 15 key leadership behaviours he believes are required, together with the Collaborative Leader Action Model, which outlines the six step process to create an engaged organisation.

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The philosophy has an obvious level of credibility because it has already been used by Dan in his role at Canadian telecoms company Telus.  The challenge arises in determining whether the philosophy can apply equally well in other environments.  Does it cross over to unrelated companies that work in different circumstances, or was the success achieved in the unique environment at Telus?

These are questions that many management books struggle to answer well.  The list of companies lauded in best selling business books for their supposedly great approach, only for them to then fail a few years later is a sad and lengthy one.  Big names from Jim Collins to Tom Peters have fallen foul, with Gary Hamel having the misfortune to trumpet the virtues of Enron in Leading the Revolution just as the company spectacularly exploded.

So whilst there are some good insights in Flat Army, and they’re accompanied by examples and case studies of companies adopting similar approaches with success (albeit some that are commonly lauded in other books on this theme), I think there is still a lot of merit in readers taking any advice with a small pinch of salt and instead look at their own situation with a fresh pair of eyes, using any advice contained as guidance rather than a detailed road map for success.

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