The seven characteristics of a tight organization

Only highly performing teams can win consistently. They work tightly together and there is little slack and little waste which is why they can be called “tight organizations”. Work is focused and extremely productive.

Here are seven characteristics of tight winning teams:

  1. Action in a tight organization is fast, specific and results-oriented. This means that communication is fast, specific, and action-oriented. People respond to messages quickly. Most emails are brief, and some few are extremely long. CC is used sparingly. BCC is not used at all within the team. Every message tries to predict the next step or question and immediately presumptively tackle it. In that way, the communication cycles are not just faster but also fewer. What is said here about email applies to slack and other forms of communication too.
  2. Communication is real and solid. There is much more signal than noise. What people say, they do. And what they do, they say. They say the same things to all people, and the same things in the face to someone as behind the person’s back. What they say matters.
  3. Decision-making is individual and fast. In a tight organization, decisions are often debated broadly and deeply. But the actual decision has an owner – an individual or perhaps a small coordination team. As those in charge of making decisions have the trust of the others and possess deep knowledge, they can make up their minds quickly.
  4. Collaborative things are reasonably predictable. People don’t cancel meetings. They don’t change agendas just before meetings. Things don’t oscillate. Everyone knows what needs to be done and who is in charge, so there is less variability in the collaboration. There can be huge changes and surprises within single projects or initiatives. But the overall framework for collaboration is stable and dependable.
  5. Collaboration is tight and free from big egos. People co-edit the same document. They help each other improve both the big and the small things. They back each other up, stepping in when someone needs support. They also hold each other to a very high standard, not tolerating mediocrity.
  6. Institutional knowledge is abundant. People instinctively know who is in charge of something, who knows the answer, who will be keen to be consulted on something. They know what works and what doesn’t. People remember specific customers and their preferences.
  7. Frugality goes without saying. In a tight organization, everyone is working towards an ambitious goal and they do so spending the smallest possible amount of cash. Everyone knows that money may be needed for bigger projects and events further down the line. Costly activities with uncertain outcomes are not practiced. Nothing is done for prestige. On the contrary, every expense will be questioned. But once they decide to focus on something, they do the opposite: they pool resources and invest boldly.


The difficulty is getting there

This is a description of a pretty impressive organization. It is easy to see and agree on the end-state. The difficulty is getting there.

An essential element is a meaningful mandate for the organization – something that allows everyone to become determined and committed to results.

You must also have a leadership team that believes in the concept of the tight organization and who will always prioritize and reward such behavior over other forms.

Success is not possible without openness, honesty and directness – in the way we think, the way we communicate, the way we collaborate, and the way we act.

Tight organizations are wonderful because they are high on results and low on egos, politicking, gossiping, and superficial fanciness.

Interestingly, when an organization gets really tight as I here describe, the culture of the organization does NOT become tight. On the contrary, it becomes looser. Everyone in the organization knows that they are doing important work. They acknowledge that it takes blood, sweat and tears. Team members trust one another. And so they also know they can be playful and make work fun. Pranks can be personal and even rough, but they come packaged in limitless kindness. It’s tight, but it is not uptight. It’s relaxed and accommodating.

Tight organizations need cultural breathing holes and conceptual sanctuaries where team members can get out of their daily grind and have fun like sisters and brothers. Those moments become unforgettable, as do the results the team produces together!

Marten Mickos

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