Improvisational Organizations – fun and profitable


Who's company is it anyway?

Create an improvisational culture in your company

— fast, flexible, empowered and positive.

Imagine your people guided more by principles and less by rules.

Picture them quickly adapting with resilience to customer needs, market changes and sales surprises.

Get everyone engaged in sustainable profitability with clear metrics, a motivating environment and room to experiment!

In an improvisational culture a leader’s primary¬†focus is keeping up with the needs of the groups she supports (rather than manages). Useful information flows throughout the company to where it’s needed. People keep each other on track because they’re passionate about the goals and don’t want any slackers holding them back. Fun is¬†as a staple of an energized environment.

What companies do you see as being improvisational? (no wrong answers here)

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9 Comments on “Improvisational Organizations – fun and profitable”

  1. Eric Says:

    Your post reminds me of a playful example… our office recently celebrated the promotion of a dozen folks into roles as associates, senior associates and directorships. This comes after a long period of downsizing and retrenching in response to the economy and signals the intent of the firm’s management to define the “new” team going forward in a proactive response to the downsized and reshaped firm. (I’m getting to the fun part)…. The firm held simultaneous “promo parties” in all three offices, and tied the parties together with webcams and split screens at each party site. Thus, folks in Philly could mug for the camera and watch the reactions in NYC and Baltimore…. Cameras are “catnip” to folks in this kind of situation, and it layered in a real connectivity between the three sites of the firm. It was a moment of celebration, as a single entity celebrating a proactive repositioning for moving forward in a radically redefined economy. For a moment, the normal competition between the offices was set aside for the value of being a single organization – implemented by a simple set of webcam devices.

    I work in an organizationally “flat” service and idea firm, we sell time and talent by the hour to our client base, and thus, our “trade” is in our expertise, creativity and learned experience. we already employ a number of “improv tools” including “Onsite charrettes” (where we work onsite with our key client representatives to achieve an optimal and consensual solution to their facilities challenges), but I would be curious to know more – much, much more – about what an improv organization is. What is an improv organization, are we already an improv organization, where can I get the “proper script” to mandate improv (wait, that last one is probably not a good response……)…. but inquiring minds want to know!!!

    • Bob Faw Says:

      Thank you for two excellent examples of improv behaviors, Eric!
      Part of an effective improv culture is powerful communication that connects people. The closer to being face to face the better, so the cameras during the “promo parties” was a wonderful example of helping everyone to “play as one troupe”.
      The “onsite charrettes” is a wonderful example of the speed of a great improv tool. One of the great things about this tool is that it shows the seeming paradox of improv. Great planning and competency development was necessary before being able to improv in a charrette. True improv artists, regardless of profession, have honed their skills and are able to work real time WITH the client.
      I love your questions about how to define an improv organization. I’m going to write a full blog post on that later this week and encourage others to submit their ideas.
      Let’s create this definition together – improvising virtually!

      • Eric Says:

        I will look forward to that with great interest. The more I work truly closely with my client base, the more important it is to be free of “performance anxiety” and to focus on a collaborative resolution to their challenges. I am always open to new techniques, ranging from core changes in how I think/act to pure “theater”…

  2. Michael Says:

    Jan Carlzon wonderful brief book Moments of Truth describes how such a culture positively impacts customers and results in a dramatic increase in revenue and profitability. The title refers to those moments when employees touch customers.
    When employees are given the responsibility and authority to be creative (improvisational in your terms), customers are positively impacted and business builds. In addition to being fun and energizing, it produces great results.

    • Bob Faw Says:

      Great points, Michael.
      I love the fact that a high performing improv culture not only has great business results, but also is fun and energizing.
      A client told me today that all of our programs are fun and energizing — we purposefully integrate improvisational dynamics into our consulting and training because it’s more effective and more fun for everyone.

  3. dmkasprzak Says:

    Hi, Bob!

    I’m going to go with 2 business school favorites: Southwest Airlines and Costco, and 2 lesser-known Massachusetts entitities that I discovered through learning about Lean practices: Z-Corp and Vibco. All these companies have leadership that looks to employees for innovations, big and small. Dramatic improvemetns in cycle time, customer service and product quality have been achieved at each of these companies by allowing the people who do the work to implement their ideas on how to do it better, faster, and cheaper.

  4. Bob Faw Says:

    thanks dmkasprzak.
    I knew about Southwest Airlines. I didn’t now about Z-Corp and Vibco, and may want to check into them further as examples. Do you know where the research is for them?
    Fast innovation by the people that do the work is a great characteristic of an great improv culture in a company.


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