Towards designing an ecosystem in the changing world of work

There are lots of organisational design questions about managing in general and managing change in particular with teams full of contractors, permanents, and virtual teams.

While present ecosystems are coping with these changes albeit with great difficulty, the major challenge that remains is that technology change is so frequent and so massive that everything else lags behind. Organizational design is always trying to catch up with technology.

In this post, I want to focus on what I see as five design issues (there are many more) which can serve in redesigning organizations which are more adaptive to the world of work which is being dragged/pushed along by technology.

  1. The approach to design needs to be piecemeal, that is constantly in flux, not too rigid, not too orthodox, without assuming that one size fits all. A purchasing process will look differently in China and the USA. Hiring may need to adhere to a few basic principles, but there will be exceptions. In brief, French grammar….a few rules and thousands of exceptions. Oui!
  2. Fairness is a key design element which needs to be factored into organizational design. In the present political climate, the left sees fair as egalitarian and the right sees fair as proportional. In post modern organizations, lack of fairness has yet to be fully understood, categorized and re-engineered. A contractor working side by side with a salaried employee have totally different motives. The contractor may want to get the job done now; the salaried employee wants to fill up the hours he or she works. It is impossible to avoid the fairness issues. It is so blatant. It cannot be defined away by process or legal means.
  3. Some cultures are not transparent by design. Some cultures believe in win lose. Some belief systems are exclusionary of the legitimacy of other belief systems. Thus, behavioural codes must factor in (or out) the immense diversity that is obfuscated by the massive use of the English language, messaging and other technologies by making us all seem/appear similar. To address this variance, there needs to be far more, or far less, tolerance. Probably both!
  4. Except for a the western rich educated liberal, people have tribal needs of belonging. These tribal needs are neglected when contractors, salaried and temps work together. When tribal needs are somehow met to foster a sense of belonging, we will have come a long way. Oh yes, if the model of belonging  is to be ‘multiculturalism’, forget it. It doesn’t work all that great except in the mind of  rich educated liberals and on social media.
  5. Leaderless solutions need to be flushed down the toilet. The complexity of the ecosystem, the inherent lack of trust, the inevitable silos and the competitive  economic model all dictate the need for wise, mature and very flexible leadership. And the vast majority of followers outside of the rich democratic countries prefer strong autocratic leaders.

Thanks to my friend Andy Spence for the inspiration.

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Why is OD so parochial as to be nearly irrelevant?

When Wang (China) looks at the marketplace, he looks for, and finds, people with whom he has trustworthy relationships. Into these relationships, he plugs in business, leveraging on the value of the relationships.

When Moshe (Israel) looks at the marketplace, he sees a bunch of clients who think they know what they want, but Moshe knows what they need. Moshe sees the gap between what clients want and what clients need as the area where he can creates value and does business.

When Francis (USA) (f) looks at the market, she sees clients who expect to get what they want, when they want it, with high quality and low cost.

When Hans (Germany) looks at the market, he sees the need to be predicable and reliable to his long term customers, producing very high quality products and services which compensates for high costs.

Naturally, Wang, Moshe, Francis and Hans naturally prefer different forms of organizing to achieve their goals.

Wang prefers organizations with a solid insider culture of which he is part. Moshe prefers a lose, undisciplined semi structured blob, where he can innovate. Francis prefers clear structure, a defined process and roles and responsibilities which are clearly delineated. Hans like a very well controlled process, heavy in detail.

To enable effective sustainable global organizing, OD practitioners must mediate between very different sets of expectations people have about the ideal form of organizing, and not try and change these basic instinctual desires unless absolutely necessary.

At present, we do not do that. OD pedals North American values about organizing. That makes OD very parochial. And irrelevant.

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