Hypothesis: (Nearly) Every Organization Should Have A "Hotliner"
Most organizations don't run very well. It's pretty hard to find one that isn't dysfunctional in some way and not hard to find one that's dysfunctional in nearly every way. It seems like most become so because of people problems and momentum problems. I think you can fix both by creating one new position in each organization.
"People problems" is a pretty obvious concept. When someone stops caring (particularly if they're in charge), people constantly fight, people start making their petty arguments into moral battles, etc., then you have people problems. "Momentum problems" just refers to when procedures, strategies, etc. aren't examined properly once they're outdated. Momentum problems are usually just a subset of people problems though, because when they aren't causing angst, no one cares enough to think critically. When they are causing angst, it's because someone (or occasionally something) is getting in the way of change.
Now most people, even if they're checked out, want to think of themselves as doing a good job and want to keep doing a better job. It's somewhat rare to find someone who is good at taking criticism, more rare when the criticism is coming from subordinates and extremely rare to find in everyone who has a say in an organization. The problem is even worse when you consider that most subordinates are very bad at bringing up the things that they think should be changed in tactful ways and when they are most calm. It's an uncomfortable topic, so most avoid it until they are thoroughly peeved and then let it erupt.
Despite these obstacles, I think everyone theoretically agrees that things work best when there is calm, considered discourse about the direction an organization is headed. To facilitate this discourse, I'd propose that every organization should have a position that I'm dubbing "hotliner." The position would entail fielding phone calls, emails and visits in which people within the organization can vent, argue and say exactly what they want to. There would be some strict rules akin to attorney-client privilege that governed what the "hotliner" could share about those conversations. To hire for the position, the organization would look for someone who has experience with the industry (or religion, academic setting, etc.), but no particular pre-existing affiliation or knowledge of the organization. The "hotliner" would also ideally be good at synthesizing information into clear and compelling arguments. One random complaint would be logged but not much else, but if a pattern emerged, the "hotliner" would be responsible for advocating for the kinds of changes that need to happen.
Given how long there have been organizations and how many very smart people have thought about how to make them run better, I can't imagine that I've discovered a new concept here that is about to revolutionize how organizations are run. Anyone know of examples of concepts like this that haven't worked and why?