If you have ever tried to get some service other than ordinary commercial business in Brasil, you might have some background to follow in this exercise of discussing on hierarchy structures around the country. This is deep in our roots. It is spread all over the public organizations and, most scaryily, in private (profit oriented) companies.
A recepcionist receives you – not always with a friendly smile, and sometimes they do greet you. It takes no more than a couple of seconds an s/he starts to inflect all the possible synonyms for the verb “need”. It is needed to do… You must… First you have to... etc. Eventually, you want some information. The answer is also a task you shall accomplish, in order to get to the right person who might tell you where to reach your for sure not that complicated answer. Meanwhile you wait, go back and forth or call infinite times a bunch of telephone numbers.
Are you responsible for a team in our soil – water or air, no boundaries apply here – you much probably have had the same feeling of inability you would get in the scenario described before. From blue collars to lower layers in the service field simply bear this ancient idea that is it not a top down hierarchy. Employees can just sit and play solitaire if they are not given any order. Not frequently the helpdesk of your company get loads of questions that could have been avoided if the receptionist was empowered – or enabled – to do the right information, or check out the clients’ ultimate needs.
Just as in Simon says game, we have in our companies several departments lined up vertically, looking up for the sub-leaders that looks up for another leader. They repeat the sub-leaders’ understanding of the leader’s demands. No questions are allowed – nor posed. Some go out of the game earlier. They might have tried to ask, or stopped to complain to their fellows about the hardness of the last task, and wonder what the big Simon would ask next. Lack of concentration, fail.
Get your group into the mood of change is a heroic challenge although not impossible. It really requires understanding deeply the structure of the lines, and mostly manage to (un)teach your team the culture of repetition of actions – or un-reasoned responses to commands that most of the times can have no touch with the everyday reality of the company.