Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Digital Shift: A Living Organization

The future of the organization is more organic than mechanical.

With the increasing speed of change and exponential growth of information, the hierarchical organization is no longer effective enough to adapt to the changes, how to design an organization of futures to run in digital speed with ultra-modern leadership style, and how to build up a dynamic, adaptable and anti-fragile digital business?

The new paradigm that is emerging is one of a living organizationIt's the organization that is organic, alive, holistic, vibrant, energetic, responsive, fluid, creative and innovative, in relationship with its environment/customers/suppliers, and above all enhances and supports the dignity of the creative human spirit. As the current machine paradigm is not capable of addressing the needs of today's more dynamic, complex changing world. And so it is failing and all attempts to solve the existing challenges through the lens of the old paradigm is also failing.

A living organization has business attributes such as flexibility, responsiveness, passion, engagement, relationship, resilience, etc: They are more of what has been called the soft side of the business for a long time, these are the critical digital traits as well. However, the current business paradigm is still dominantly rooted in the mechanistic understanding/framing of the reductionistic view of the universe. And so it is no wonder we have a machine like a paradigm for organizing work. The organization of the future will be "organically" and adaptively developed iterating and empowered by an intelligent organizational design that puts values and people before rules and roles.

The organization of the future starts with a transcendent purpose: It leads to a unique Natural Design, which is that design most fit for achieving the purpose under the current conditions. The natural design allows the organization to morph as living conditions and organization capacities change to allow a better fit for the purpose. And, when that purpose is fulfilled, or a more compelling purpose appears, then the organization can morph again and move on to the next great purpose. Nevertheless, different rules for a game enable different expressions of the players. Providing a framework model that, once based on a shared culture and on a valuable and well-defined purpose, enables people to produce value with the less waste possible along the way. So, the new breed of digital organizations is adaptive, fast and anti-fragile.

An organization is an organic system like the tree: It will be organized as an organic system, with cells that have a function, an infrastructure for input and output and for signaling. Does it need a brain? It might be its information management function. To achieve this you will eventually break down the hierarchical structure of the organization. But to do so, you must replace the "glue" of the hierarchy with something else. That something else will be the purpose of the organization, its mission, the deeply held core values and the vision of the future it is creating. The principles as a compass will guide all levels of the organization to operate more like the human body operates with the cells (employees) and organs (Dept) of the organization being able to make the decision in a very organic relationship with its environment.

One of the key determinants of whether an organization can move to new digital structures is the development level of the people: So part of this journey is to prepare people for the new structures and to recognize this is a crucial step. People have to be ready for moving to a more fluid structure. Any ideas on what are the core qualities or competencies determine if one is ready for fluid structure. And this shift will also be supported by a new set of organization processes (hiring, sale, marketing, performance development, etc) and the latest digital technologies such as a social or mobile platform.

The digital organizations embrace three ‘E’s: Empowerment, Enablement, and  Enlightening. EMPOWERMENT: Empower talent to take extra miles; ENABLEMENT: Enable business innovation; and ENLIGHTENING: Enlighten customer via digital touch point and tailored experience. 'Empowerment' and 'engagement' cannot be new as they are tools of the existing world. Empowerment does not mean power-giving. Power cannot be given, it can be shared; power given is the devolvement of responsibility from the power source. If we are seriously going to change today’s model, power will have meant real power to all stakeholders. Only true collaboration can sustain that. And collaboration is to form a core of the future organization.

The digital shift means principles over rules; empowerment over control, engagement over command and dynamic over static, and the digital organization is a living thing with the ability to continually change as the world changes, perhaps much like the plants follow the sun.


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