Workable Organization Structures In The New Millennium

connectedness_capacity_resilience

Work, family adapt to cope with the pace of change…

I’ve been thinking about workable organization structures. For years I worked at a traditional, hierarchically-organized corporation where everybody reported to a boss, and that boss reported to their boss, and so on. Never were you to talk to another boss, just your own. Over the years the company experimented with cross-organizational services both traditional (e.g., Controllers, Public Affairs, Information Technology) and modern (e.g., Centers of Expertise, Business Process Consultants, Matrix Management).

When I started my own practice, setting up operations teams for clients, I tried to use the best of what I’d learned at corporation blended with newer, tested, and entrepreneurial methods. Here’s my short list:
. Network vs. Hierarchy
. Parameters vs. Prescriptions
. Lines of Accountability
. Areas of Authority
. Spheres of Influence

The trend these days is to operate more and more as networks of interdependent practitioners, each of whom knows their own areas of expertise AND the big picture. They don’t need a first-level supervisor, aka Automaton Boss, to look over their shoulder and tell them what to do or to check that they’re not screwing up. That’s where parameters come in: be sure they know the big picture and the general guidelines they have to stay within, and leave them to it to accomplish it.

What are the parameters to give these folks? First, a Budget; second, Measure(s) of Success. Some will need to recruit and manage a team. Others will need to create a system of resources. The point is to be sure they know WHAT is needed and the envelope of constraints, but otherwise leave them to figure out HOW to do it. And when reviewing how they’re doing, or deciding if adjustments are needed, you stay focused on the parameters.  This is where accountability comes in. They know they are accountable to you for the parameters and they are happy to communicate on that basis.

Leaving them to accomplish it is where authority comes in – they must have areas of authority where they get to decide, and neither you nor anyone else gets to second-guess them or tell them what to do or step on their toes. Since each of these independent practitioners is still INTERdependent on you and others with their own authority, this is where influence comes in. They must learn to give each other counsel, make requests, cajole etc. to work well and together in common self interest. But they can’t “tell” them what to do.

Yes it’s complex. But less and less do traditional “command and control” structures work anymore, because they are expensive and slow. Network structures, once established, can be incredibly fast, responsive, and flexible, able to competently deal with changing circumstances but still “keep the eye on the ball.” Yes this is simplistic, but the gist of the new method is here. Regardless of age, we’re Millennials now. Our work as well as family structures must adapt to cope with the pace of change.

Reference
Organizational Structure (Wikipedia)
Millennials (Wikipedia)
Circle of Influence (Covey)

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