Collaborative governance, an answer to the crisis?

22 May 2020 | Governance

By : Marine Lhomel,

This article goes over the discussion between Laurent Ledoux (Phusis) and Philippe Pinault (Holaspirit) about the need for organizations to become more collaborative to prepare for “the new normal”.

Phusis Webinar: From delegation to self-management: how to prepare for “the new normal” | Key Takeaways

On Tuesday, May 19th, Phusis held its first webinar, in collaboration with its partner Holaspirit, on collaborative governance as well as on the new management models and tolls that enable organizations to evolve in the way they operate. While the lockdown is progressively ending and as companies are slowly relaunching their activities, it is time for assessment and reflection:

  • Why do some organizations better than others?
  • How do they adapt?
  • How collaborative approaches can bring some tangible solutions to the problems traditional organizations have faced during the crisis?
  • How to rapidly implement this kind of governance in companies?

To answer these different questions, Laurent Ledoux, Co-Founder of Phusis, and Philippe Pinault, CEO of Holaspirit and Talkspirit, have shared their views and experience of the impact of collaborative governance on organizations that decide to adopt it.

To be featured in this article:

Traditional hierarchical models have reached their limits

Both our speakers agreed that classical hierarchical organizational models, such as those we experienced in the 20th century and still encounter today, have reached their limits. They explained how the context in which we have been evolving for several decades, and which has clearly accelerated in recent months due to the crisis, leads us to reflect on the modes of governance that organizations can put in place to be able to constantly adapt to their environment.

According to Philippe Pinault, this crisis is a good time to talk about collaborative governance, because the time of pyramid systems is over. The volatility, complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty that reign in our societies are pushing us to rethink the governance of our organizations in a new light. It is precisely in response to these challenges that collaborative approaches have emerged. “It has become impossible today to manage everything from the top down, it is too complicated and requires the contribution of more people at all levels of the organization” he explains.

Collaborative governance: a clear response to the weaknesses revealed by the crisis

For Laurent Ledoux, collaborative governance is an obvious response to the organizational weaknesses highlighted by the crisis, but the transformation of companies cannot take place without a real awareness and full support of leaders for the need to change their organization in depth. “If there is no willingness on the part of top management to move in this direction, any initiative in a subsidiary will have its limits and risks being stifled by the rest of the organization”, he says.

In concrete terms, collaborative approaches are based on different methodologies and schools of thought. The conclusion reached by many experts is that companies need to find a purpose that goes beyond productivity and profitability. Performance at all costs may be a driving force for many organizations, but more so for the people within them. The new generations coming into the market have a different relationship to work. They are very openly expressing expectations and aspirations that are more related to the satisfaction of basic psychological needs and their search for meaning, than to the desire to fit into the mould of their predecessors.

Performance is no longer the ultimate goal, but the consequence of a virtuous circle.

In other words, a company’s success now depends on its ability to meet the basic needs of inclusion (being part of a team, being recognized, knowing that one’s opinion is taken into account), autonomy (being able to take the initiatives that seem necessary to contribute to the team’s objectives) and individual development (the desire to grow and evolve as a person and not as a factor of production). “Studies show that if these needs are met, the pleasure of working has a positive impact on the organization. Collaborative governance makes it easier to meet these different basic needs”, adds Laurent Ledoux.

In practice:

  • Involve all employees in the common definition of the framework and rules that will govern the operation of the organization;
  • To unite the entire organization around a purpose that motivates everyone to work for the collective interest;
  • To ensure that the roles and responsibilities of each individual are clear to all members of the organization;
  • Foster transparent communication and collective intelligence to quickly identify and resolve potential dysfunctions.
  • Implement more fluid decision-making processes, based on expertise, experience and needs in the field.

A long-term transformation

It is quickly understood that to start this type of transformation, which may seem radical to some organizations, it is essential to be accompanied and to have tools that facilitate the development of the new model and promote adherence and integration. “Our platform is used in more than 30 countries in Europe. We see players in the banking world deploying these methodologies for hundreds of employees and thousands of roles to be described,” says Philippe Pinault. For the CEO of Holaspirit, organizations need to be guided and supported as closely as possible during their transformation process in order to avoid falling into certain clichés, but above all to establish the reality of the experience, to propose adapted paths so that everyone can find their place in a system that gives them greater autonomy.

One of the issues that is on everyone’s lips during the webinar is the question of time. Yes, transforming the governance of an organization takes time, as it is a change that is happening at all levels and affects the corporate culture. “Everyone is going to change their stance and become an entrepreneur in their own roles. This is not a natural process for everyone. Some people are more comfortable when their manager explains how to do it. Changing the way you look at work requires a temporality that will be different for each individual”, explains Philippe Pinault.

“The time it takes to transform a company depends, among other things, on its size. However, it is important to specify that it is not a process that ends, it is a gradual process that must be continually adjusted and regenerated. If we do things right, we can see results in the pilots after a few months, as is the case for one of our clients who employs nearly 2,000 people”, adds Laurent Ledoux.

For living, self-evolving and more resilient organizations

Probably what made collaborative organizations strong in the face of the crisis was their ability to reinvent themselves, to adapt, to be resilient. Decentralizing decision-making power, bringing it closer to the reality on the ground, and linking roles and responsibilities based on expertise rather than hierarchical status will have helped them to react much more quickly than organizations that are still strongly rooted in modes of operation that are essentially dependent on a minority.

According to Laurent Ledoux, collaborative governance and an authentic transformation process (one that is truly desired and supported by leadership) gives rise to organic organizations, capable of regenerating themselves, because they react not like a robot, but like a human body. “A robot has a processor that controls its actions and if that processor stops, everything stops. In a human body, each cell has an autonomous, precise role with a clear action to perform. This is what allows the human body to function as a whole and adapt to all changes”.

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