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Agile Knowledge Work: Tackling the Pyramid

Handling hierarchy is the most important and toughest part of introducing the key values of openness, commitment and accountability. If collaboration hinges on good relationships (mutual respect, care, collegiality, open) a command and control hierarchy works against these characteristics. 

When people are talking about what they can achieve together instead of pay structures, turf protection and political position, an organization is making strides towards meaningful, rewarding and successful work.

How else can you tackle hierarchy? The traditional change management approach of smashing silos rarely lasts long. Relationships and attitudes and the way superiors and subordinates see each other is a good place to begin. It is when you see hierarchy in relationships, rather than structure, that you know where to start.

The key to handling hierarchy is not only in allowing collaboration amongst silos, but it is to encourage working peer-to-peer relationships between those who would typically be considered higher up the ladder with those who would typically be seen as lower down. It is about breaking this invisible barrier preventing interaction between the layers of the organization that sends the message that structured hierarchy and hierarchy behavior inhibits organizational and individual performance.

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