I liked this article a lot, which is nominally about investors (Venture Capital) on a board of directors. But I think that it has a lot to offer to a similar idea I like: thinking about higher levels of management/ownership hierarchy as productive tools for building the business.
Here’s a great quote:
VCs crave the ability to help portfolio companies. We’re all secretly paranoid we’re not helping enough and want to know how to be more helpful. When a company gives you a discrete action to carry out – it’s gold dust – I promise you. If board members start joking amongst themselves (as we at DataSift do) that you “got another Rob assignment” you know you’re on the right track.
USE the VC who, normally, is the “boss”.
I work in a business with fairly flat organizations where, when the culture is healthy, everything is subordinated to the deal, even the ego of the CEO.
So to generalize a bit from the article, different members of the organization should drop in and out of the team as needed. We think hierarchically (you’re my boss, etc) and of course that’s necessary in many contexts. But the hierarchy of the team on an account need not always mirror that of the organization as a whole.
The key is for the ‘owners’ of the outcome of specific projects (account execs) to be able to identify problems and willing to search for the best available resource in the organization to solve it.
It takes leadership to break free of hierarchy when doing this and, echoing Dan Rockwell (see here but this is a constant theme for him), takes even more leadership to encourage a subordinate to do it.