There are several major reasons that organizations are not flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstance. In this post I will examine three, and suggest what needs to be done to achieve more flexibility. (There are of course other reasons, like bad politics. which I will not deal with in this post).
1) Too much chaos
Sam, Lisl and Ethan’s company started in a garage. Sam wrote the key algorithms , Lisl raised money and Ethan looked for a strategic partner. All 3 wrote code. All decisions were made together by consensus.
Their company now has 50 people with 4 major subcontractors. All decisions go up to Sam Lisl and Ethan who still manage the company like 3 nerds in a garage. Decision making is a nightmare, locked in the free-spirited “we-all-decide-everything” mode. (Last week they had a one day meeting about with which travel agency to work).
In essence, their company has become the very essence of rigidity, with decisions lagging by 4 months.
2) Too much bureaucracy
I will not use a case study to illustrate this type of rigidity in a large company . We all know it all too well. These organizations have an ERP which has replaced common sense. The work flow is a nightmare. Every minor issue generates tens to hundreds of emails, as anxious staff make sure that they serve the process and transfer blame backwards or forwards. It is very hard to do very simple things, and impossible to do anything creative. Everything takes much much longer than it should, and the organization (often assisted by internal OD) is obsessed with process improvement.
3) Organizations which have adopted agile methodologies.
Prompted by “best practices”, blind emulation of technology and pure stupidity, there are a plethora of “agile methodologies” available to organizations who want to apply agile coding practices to the art of organization. (In some ways this reminds me of western politicians who want to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East).
An agile methodology is an oxymoron, like thought leadership. In the quest to loosen up from too much or too little order in order to gain more flexibility, organizations embrace yet another cause of rigidity, a “methodology”.
Organizations are rigid because they have too much or too little “order”.
An agile methodology is self defeating.
Organizations whose rigidity stems from chaos need order.
Agile organizational methodologies should be replaced with smart hires, lot of room for common sense, and small teams (as geographically consolidated as possible) that meet face to face with their smartphones off.