What is cat herding?
According to Wikipedia
- An idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities that are inherently uncontrollable—as in the difficulty of attempting to command individual cats into a group (herd).
Most leaders in companies can relate to this easily.
- Matrixed and Virtual Teams: Gone are the days where you have complete control over tasks and people who do the tasks. Now everything is matrixed; where you are working with people that are not in your team, they could be in separate reporting structures, across the world, and now on top of that, remote as well.
- The pace of change is very fast because everything movies at warp speed now
- There is an app for everything now. On the flip side, the issue is that information is spread all over and there is no one place to find anything
Most leaders today feel like they are ‘Cat-herders’ between the people they need to manage, the priorities and pace of change, and the various technologies they need to bring together.
Here are 5 simple steps to make cat herding easy
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communication at all levels s critical. Enable various forms of communication - emails, chats, conversations, surveys are all great ways of communication. The most important thing with communication is the ability to focus and channel it around activities and outcomes so that it does not just add to more noise.
- Create visibility: Matrixed teams across geographies mean that people don’t know where things are at. Create visibility around task completion as well as goal achievement is critical. Summarizing and visualizing the data is a big part of creating visibility.
- Make the work environment fun: There are ways to incorporate fun into day to day work to create healthy competitions and keep the work exciting for employees. Gamification also helps put the focus on the right behaviors and goals and brings what is important to focus.
- Create an environment where change is part of life and create adaptable processes that can change easily: Managing change is hard when teams are face to face, let alone distributed and remote. Change management has to be incorporated into the processes, rituals, and habits of the organization.
- Create a culture of feedback and recognition so everyone is an owner: If everyone acts as the owner, the cat-herding is not required. For employees to feel like owners, creating a culture of continuous feedback is needed to do constant course correction. Recognition is also a big aspect of ensuring that employees understand how critical their contributions are to the progress of the company.
These are simple steps, but not easy. For the same reasons we discussed earlier. But if leaders are able to take daily actions, cat-herding becomes easy and manageable.