When Solutions Get Stuck | Collective Next

When Solutions Get Stuck

January, 2024

Remember the last big initiative you worked on with your team? The hours spent with whiteboards, the countless pages of PowerPoint generated? Some of the ideas you came up with were great! But when you finally wrapped up your efforts—when you shared your work with your bosses and closed that deck for the last time—what changed? Sure, you found some efficiencies or improvements for your immediate team, but did your initiative have the impact that you were hoping for? Did your entire organization change in the ways that you imagined it would?

In working with countless teams and organizations, Collective Next has seen this phenomenon happen…a lot. We’ve seen big, brilliant ideas sputter and lose steam. We’ve seen initiatives with the potential to realign and accelerate an entire company simply become…stuck. And it doesn’t happen because of laziness or bad intentions; it happens when solutions aren’t designed with the entire organizational ecosystem in mind.

Layers Upon Layers

Organizations are complex by nature. And despite our grand visions of silo-less, interconnected teams marching to the beat of a single drum, every organization sorts itself into discrete units or “layers” of people that share common concerns and responsibilities . Call them business units, teams, compartments, or whatever you’d like: these delineations exist in any sufficiently complex organization, whether we like it or not.

These layers aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Whatever they’re called and however they’re represented, from the right altitude you can see that they are simply a bunch of talented people working towards the same goal, but from different vantage points. The challenge (and the opportunity) arises when those vantage points limit our vision, when we can’t see the rest of the ecosystem.

Let’s use the very simple representation above, the concentric circles, to orient ourselves around these layers. How might we describe these layers, in a typical organization? And what’s important to the people that fall within them?

Senior Leadership

Also known as: the Executive Leadership Team or the Senior Leadership team. This circle comprises the CEO and their direct reports. These are the folks that are “in charge” of the company and that manage managers.
What are their primary concerns? Defining strategy, designing the organization, allocating resources, etc.

Organizational Leadership

Also known as: Mid-level managers or the extended leadership team. This circle comprises directors and above (including The Inner Circle). These are the folks performing most of the “people management” in the organization.
What are their primary concerns? Inspiring teams, translating strategy, managing resources, etc.

The Wider Organization

Also known as: Everybody that works in your company, including the folks performing the day-to-day work. But crucially, this circle also comprises everyone on your payroll, including the other layers described above.
What are their primary concerns? Executing strategy, the day-to-day work, etc.

So what’s the problem?

When organizations start looking for solutions to specific challenges, they almost always become fixated on one of these “layers” to the exclusion of the others. Ideas for change are developed solely for Organizational Leadership, for example, in the hope that the change they initiate will trickle down to the wider organization.

But if we consider each organizational layer as a piece of a larger, interconnected ecosystem, it becomes clear that this traditional approach is limited at best. At CN, we’ve learned that companies find more success when every solution considers the organization holistically. When everyone in your company feels that they are playing a role and shaping the change that your strategy demands, that change becomes exponentially more achievable.

This is a lot easier said than done! For the next few months, we’ll examine the ways that each layer of your company can work on solutions that will affect your entire organizational ecosystem.

Immersive Web Experiences / Alexion Culture Transformation Story

This external facing website is designed to showcase the culture transformation that Alexion underwent since 2017. The site utilizes an innovative scroll-based animation design, and also featured a cross-team effort that included creative, production, and digital teams.