The traditional organization is, amongst other things, obsessed with closure. It despises ambiguity and puts a premium on the absolute clarity of processes, systems and structures. It’s engineered on testosterone. Inputs produce outputs, and they’d better be good since all those inputs are so expensive!
It’s a military operation even when we say it isn’t. But even the military have discovered that the world around us is volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous. They have even a word for it: VUCA. And if you are in this VUCA world, you can’t afford high levels of ‘uncertainty-avoidance’ (a classical cultural hallmark of many traditional organizations). That world is uncertainty in itself, so, to avoid uncertainty is to avoid the world around you. I thought many times that the military have become much better than us, i.e. people in organizations, at navigating ambiguity. The enemy is VUCA, it does not have the name of a country anymore, can you believe it?
In this moving target world (markets, competitors, technology, pace of creation/destruction, predictability of anything, Black Swans…), to have everything crafted, well structured, closed, finished, stable and strong, is suicidal. People with all the answers should be disqualified from holding leadership office. This is not in praise of chaos but more a call for a well organised, un-finished, un-settled, un-stable, not completely closed, imperfect organization, with enough room to manoeuvre and adapt at the speed of light. I call this ‘Unfinished by Design’ or ‘the Beta Organization’.
If you want to succeed, stay in beta. Lots of alpha organizations are either dead or are not feeling very well.
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