A set of “algorithms” for global organizing: A building block of the new OD operating system

Minahan and Norlin in their recent article “Edging Toward the Center” (OD Practitioner: Vol 45: 4, 2013) suggest a move away from the extremities of OD which may have been applicable in the past in the happier days of OD and suggest that OD should migrate to the centre, i.e., towards bringing more value to clients without abandoning OD’s core values. I suggested in my critique of that article that this is “too little too late” because OD has been almost “voted off the island”; I also suggested we needed a new Operating System for OD, not a bug fix or service pack. I proposed six principles.

The goal of this post and the next 3 posts is to provide examples of each of the 6 principles I proposed as a new operating system for OD.

4) Create  a set of global organizing “algorithms” which address organizational design and management development; these so called algorithms serve as a platform to manage complexity in order to enable rapid and adaptive behaviour.

Global organizations often need to move quickly and be highly adaptive, because  speed is often a major part component of strategy. Yet global organizations are often slowed down by time zones, misunderstandings, overt and  hidden agendas as well as draining culture clashes.

Global organizing has been around enough that we know of many recurring problematic patterns that OD needs to cope with. The question is: how can OD be relevant? Let’s look at some of the recurring issues in global organizing.

1) Developing trust between cultures which follow process and those which leverage relationships.

2) Openness vs. discretion as preferred communication venue, especially when speed is strategy

3) Risk taking behaviour  vs. risk aversion behaviour-as linked to “face” and furthering/hindering one’s career, especially in new product introduction

4) Need for clarity vs. high tolerance of ambiguity, especially when two diverse sites are jointly developing a new product.

5) Obey vs. challenge authority

……and the list goes on and on.

Here are some examples of what OD would deal with:

1-In a Global Supply Supply Chain organization HQed in Holland and Singapore, in an industry with 2 products every 5 years/3 products a month, what organizational design/behaviour issues can be expected and what is the protocol for designing and staffing such an organization. What type of leader are we looking for?

2-In an organization which sells most of its products in Japan and the US, with R&D taking place in Israel and India, what organizational design/behaviour issues can be expected and what is the protocol for designing and staffing such an organization. What type of leader are we looking for?

The new OD operating system would drive these critical issues into organizational design and focus on non parochial leadership development, which is very different from what happens today.

Sadly at this point, OD does not deal early enough in global organizational design, and too few OD interventions are prophylactic in nature. This gap is a huge strategic niche; if OD can provide something even close to a conceptual and architectural algorithm for global organizational design, this would vastly improve our impact and not position OD in training and firefighting.

Nowadays, when the fires break out (if the manager has a high level of awareness and Gloria is not the HR manager, ) OD may be used to ease the pain, The pain relief (in the form of cultural training) probably has a western bias.

In the new OD operating system,  training would not have a western bias which would push  patience and understanding until the other side changes, nor preach “meeting in the middle”, which is clearly a western quirk. But that belongs to another post.

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