If you had the possibility of designing an ideal organizational structure or redesigning one that you already have, what would you do? Most people would probably answer first with, what they do not want to do or have. We are more aware of what we dislike than having a clear understanding of what we should have. We have our own Christmas shopping list: flexibility, no silos, perhaps most small units, etc. And as a bonus, well, less meetings.
In recent years people have been experimenting with ‘the structures’ perhaps more than before. There has been a lot of music around self-management and, with that, the structure that would come from it. What people have discovered as well is that it’s very difficult to cut and paste. Structures and ways of working that seem to have been very successful in some companies, fail miserably when transferred to others, even if one could say that there was some similarity in the business.
The concept of the ‘requisite organization’ is quite old. Basically, it says that you need to have the organization that you need to have. And this is not a joke. This position points to the direction of the inexistence of one type of organization that is universally better than another. In fact, questioning structures is not the best way to start. The real question is what functionalities you want to have and then, which barriers you will have to avoid, to precisely maintain and enhance those functionalities. Another alternative is to switch from the traditional ‘who does/needs to do what’ to the ‘who knows/needs to know what’. The outcomes are completely different.
A new organizational structure, or a redesign of an existing one, should be the outcome of assessing the relevance of some criteria for the functioning of the business, not the input or the starting point.
The post-pandemic situation brings to the table lots of questions about work, well beyond the ‘from home’ or ‘remote’ false dichotomy. It is our chronic inability to cope with ambiguity that forces people to desperately find an answer, the answer, perfect or close to it. In my view this is one of the key problems. For me, a good start is to accept that the modern company, if that concept exists at all, is at the very least one that is able to ‘host’ the coexistence under one roof of several types of structure, business models, reporting systems, ways of working and types of contracts with employees. As infuriating for management as it may be (it is easier to manage the one monolithic company) it is perhaps the way to the ‘upgrade’.
Incidentally, when structure is seen as ‘intractable’ people resort to the dictatorship of goodness. ‘I solemnly declare that Wednesday is a non-zoom day and that you can’t email over the weekend, enjoy it’. Dictators have always known what is best for us and the benign dictatorship of ‘this will make you happy’ and ‘we are liberating you’ is not different. Some of those normative are prisons and go against the concept of diversity that the very same company may profess.
Creating Smart New Designs is a crucial leadership priority. But you will not find it in the proverbial ‘survey of CEOs’. Surprisingly, the options are enormous, so is the risk of repeating the same errors. ‘The lockdown’ digitalised many of our relationships. Those zoom days brought to digital the same bad practices that we had in analogue. We can do better. We must do better. Churchill said it: ‘We build our houses and then the houses shape us’.
Continue the conversation…join me and my team as we explore organizational life post-Covid.
Next Thursday: A Better Way to…design your organizational structures to create a remarkable organization for the future.
The new Promised Land of the so-called ‘future of work’
We know that the new organization has to be very adaptable and flexible, beyond what it has been in the past, but what are the organizational principles that can lead to that? Is there a singular best model? Or, more importantly, can several possibly competing models coexist in one single organization? And, if so, what kind of management and leadership are to be reinvented?
27th May, 1730 BST/1830 CET
Also part of the series:
- Webinar 2: “A Better Way to…Create sustainable large scale behavioural and cultural change across your organization.”
3rd June, 1730 BST/1830 CET
- Webinar 3: “A Better Way to…Build and enhance your collective leadership capabilities.”
17th June, 1730 BST/1830 CET