Thursday, August 6, 2015

How to Build a High-Mature Organization

Organizational maturity is not just about technical excellence or process efficiency, but more about business effectiveness, agility, innovation, intelligence, and people-centricity.

An organization or company may be in business for many years but has not matured its management practices or lack of well-defined sets of business principles. Most of the organizations stick to the lower level of maturity mode (reactive, inside-out, and operational driven), how can they move up the maturity level to become truly proactive and outside-in, more culture intelligent and people-centric?

Looking out of problems before looking into the problems: The first step when thinking about a system is to understand the purpose of the containing system. What Russ Ackoff used to call "looking out of the problem" as opposed to "looking into the problem." That is the synthesis before analysis. In most cases, you don't understand your business environment because you have never looked outside the boundary of the problem. If, and when, you ever develop the capacity for synthesis, you will discover the containing system has social, ecological, economic and political elements and you must advance the development of all of these factors in order to solve the problems in a holistic way and improve organizational maturity seamlessly.

You need to have a holistic view of the organization: The big corporations have varying levels of maturity. Some of the mixed levels of maturity are the result of acquiring and merging organizations and cultures. Companies that have taken the steps to mature their practices find that these become embodied in the corporate culture and the effects of the seven-year cycle are mitigated. Or many people create a solution at the beginning of a project and then give up when they cannot find the supporting data for their solution. You need to ensure that you are approaching a problem from a non-biased angle and then finding the solution that fits the resources you have. A high-mature organization not only discovers the business purpose but also helps their employees discover the purpose of unleashing the talent potential. However, in lower mature organizations, most managers are impeding progress up the pyramid rather than helping their people reach the summit. And there are no shortcuts to getting to that state, it’s a process and it takes time and a real commitment to getting there. To counter management's arguments, it is very helpful to have a quantitative understanding of what you are capable of achieving along with the pros, cons, and impacts of their decisions. It comes down to the proper setting of expectations. However, to be effective and credible, you need to have a holistic view of the organization. Focusing on one small piece may not work, the digital organization is all about hyperconnectivity and interdependence.

Agile is a philosophy and methodology to run a highly mature digital organization. Agile is rarely a straight line. It is all about interaction, incrementalism, and innovation. The journey is far more important than the destination. Add the seven-year cycle and you will see why traditional linear or waterfall style management does not work; that is every organization forgets what it learned in the previous seven years and new people are relearning what and how to do whatever failed before. This is not too cynical, it is 100% valid in all large organizations. There are not many exceptions. The management, process and implementation gaps are alive and well in every institution. If too often the efforts described are seen as too much work or requiring resources that most are not willing to invest to make improvements in a process. It's easier to blame human error in most cases. Run a controlled experiment (pilot the process). Collect data. Analyze data. Determine if your hypothesis is true or false. Make adjustments as needed and repeat the process until you get it right. Also, it might take several projects to find the solution to one problem because you may have to implement new systems and procedures to find the information you need.

Organizational maturity is not just about technical excellence or process efficiency, but more about business effectiveness, agility, innovation, intelligence, and people-centricity. Organizations which operate this way have happy staff and customers, strong balance sheet, and positive social influence upon the environment, it’s the way for the business to transform from “good to great,” and from “built to last.”


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