Tag Archives: collaboration

Wirearchy by Design: Principles of the 21stC Networked Org

The #orgdna community is hosting a monthly Twitter Chat on topics in OD, using a quarterly topic “series ” format to build on core ideas in-depth.  For 1Q16 we looked at challenges of Transformation. 2Q16 took us into System Thinking to help us understand models like the age-old silo. Now, for 3Q16, we move to a deep dive on Structure and Flow in organization design.

JULY 2016.  Most organization designers have hierarchy deeply burned-in to their mental models, so much so that anything else simply seems foreign and non-viable.  Progressive thinkers challenge those older models, helping structured thinking give way to org paradigms that are more akin to notions of flow, adaptation, and movable borders. The concept of networked structures comes into view. And things start to get interesting.

Jon Husband is a well-known leader in the global conversation of networked organizations. His concept of wirearchy dates back to the late 1990’s, when the internet was young. It provides a powerful challenge to our thinking at the outset. Can people or leaders organize themselves to do useful work if they abandon structure in favor of simple connections? Or can the structures co-exist?

Let’s find out.  Our chat for MON 7/18 9 p.m. ET sets out to explore Wirearchy, and it’s implications. We have invited Jon Husband himself to join us, and we look forward to the exchange. Here’s our high-level discussion outline, with questions actually surfaced in bold:

  • Q1. Wirearchy defined. Does a network design in itself foster collaboration? Why?
  • Q2. Can structured vs. network approaches co-exist?
  • Q3. What factors influence success/adoption of Wirearchy or principles like it?
  • Q4. Do complex problems or relationships fare well w/ Wirearchy? Does complexity play a role in this?
  • Q5. What are entry points for Wirearchy to take hold? How can understanding spread?

We hope you will join us. We’ll gather in the #orgdna “lobby” (virtual, of course) a few minutes ahead for some brief introductions, and as always, we’ll see where the conversation takes us. Send your messages via Twitter including the hashtag #orgdna; we recommend a streaming tool like Tweet Deck, to see consecutive comments as they flow in.

Looking forward to this. Stay tuned for more on structure and flow for 3Q16. We’ll see you online !!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

 


Rethinking the Silo: New Designs for Structure and Flow in the 21st Century Organization

In our monthly #orgdna chat, we’ve been discussing the future of the 21st century organization. Some have begun to rethink what is possible. Some have argued, as I have, that leaders should orchestrate their organizations rather than trying to control them, embracing more collaborative models for getting things done. Why?

In short, dynamic models account for the need for organizations to respond to change. Adaptability is a requirement. And resources (e.g., information, people, funding) must be allowed to flow across department/functional boundaries when and where they are needed.

Sadly, silos remain predominant. It’s what everybody is used to. It’s the 100-year-old factory model still being held up as the handbook for modern business. Think about any bureaucratic organization you’ve encountered. They are built in silos that sub-optimize elements at the expense of the whole. They embrace standards, at the expense of change. And perhaps worst, they are virtually programmed to survive.

The good news:  there are some alternative ideas and models in play that set out to change the rules, topics that are worth a deeper dive. So let’s have a look.

First, lets revisit our path:

  • In April, we looked at system thinking (link) as a means to model the structure and flow of the typical silo-based organization, to identify bottlenecks and counter-productive motivators.
  • In May, we deconstructed the silo (link), looking at specific reinforcing flows that create problematic influences, beyond our best intentions.
  • Now, in June, it’s time to look at silo improvements, exploring alternatives to challenges and gaps we’ve identified.

Let’s start with a picture to get us thinking, a visual prompt for ideas that can be complex and abstract when left to words.

Here’s an excellent image offered by a regular #orgdna contributor, Valdis Krebs. The concept of Wirearchy (more) was first coined by Jon Husband in 1999. It is a useful model to explore the alternatives to the organizational silo:

With reflection on this picture, we can resume our Q&A, a dialog on silo factors and alternatives, informed by the Wierarchy idea and fueled by system thinking. Let’s consider ways for:

  • Q1. Restoring Critical Feedback. Adaptation depends on a critical feedback loop, and in silo’d orgs this is often blocked. What new mechanisms could allow feedback to flow across and within silos?
  • Q2. Freeing/Reallocating Critical Resources. We’ve all seen hoarding of financial and human resources within silos produce a negative outcome. What can be done to prevent or discourage this?
  • Q3. Solving Fragility for Resilience. We’ve learned silos that hone deep expertise are fragile or obsolete when demands change. 21stC forces demand adaptability; organizations are seeing shifts in their markets and technology base; operating units must learn to function under new rules. This can be the most daunting kind of change of all. How do we foster adapability and a new resilience?
  • Q4. Optimizing for the Whole. The classic negative silo-driven outcome is optimization at the department or component level, while hurting the larger organization. What is needed to circumvent this self-defeating path?

As we discuss alternatives, let’s continue to use system thinking as a guide. What forces are at work? What controls are increasing, decreasing, or blocking the flow of critical resources? How might these be influenced?

The #orgdna community meets monthly on organizational learning and leadership, typically 3rd MONDAYs at 10 pm ET. Simply sign on to Twitter at that time, and use the hashtag #orgdna to follow the conversation. If you can’t attend, the transcript will be captured in PDF form and linked in a comment to this framing blog post. Prior transcripts are available in a similar fashion, as comments on the respective monthly post.

It’s always a lively exchange. All are welcome. We hope to see you there.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Unpacking Transformation: What are the Critical Building Blocks?

Everybody knows. The only constant in today’s world .. and in today’s organization .. is change. More and more, however, it is transformative change. Not the gradual, barely visible, frog-in-boiling-water variety. It’s gut-wrenching change, change that that leaves you in a completely different place than when you began.

Like the farm house carried from Kansas to Oz, transformation is about a fundamentally new perspective.

Transformation is the stuff of paradigm shifts.

Organizations are complex, highly integrated things, and they’re generally quite strong when it comes to survival. But that strength makes them resistant to new rules. So transformation is always difficult .. whether the mission is to restructure the workforce, enter new markets, redefine a brand, or successfully merge existing companies.

What does transformation require? Each of the above examples begs the question. Fundamentally, at the highest level, there must be people who are focused and committed to getting the hard work of change done, in spite of predictable .. and quite logical .. reservations. So we need to unpack the necessary drivers. What are the motivators? What must leaders do?

We’ve used the metaphor of building blocks in the past to take apart complex topics, so let’s use it here. What are the building blocks of Transformation?

  • Q1. Open & Pervasive Communication. How much is enough?
  • Q2. Leaders Who Care. When does supervision transition to coaching and/or serving as mentor?
  • Q3. Trust in Those Leaders. Can we know when it’s safe?
  • Q4. Owning the End State. Is it possible for an entire organization to find common ground?
  • Q5. Freedom to Take Risks. So often, risk in business is against the grain. How do achieve something that is so often preached against?
  • Q6. Willingness to Learn. How does an entire organization learn?
  • Q7. Time. Do we have the necessary patience?

Please plan to jump in. We’re still finalizing the frame, and we’d love your input.

Also, we’ll plan to post additional Transformation-related topics and sources here, as a reference point, to energize & further inform our discussions:

For 2016, the #orgdna community is launching a quarterly theme framework, so that 3 successive chats can be used to build perspectives in one specific area of organizational dynamics. We have added a new #orgdna agenda page as the preliminary guideline for the year .. think of it as our editorial calendar .. but expect it to change, as we learn more together.

We hope you will join the conversation every 3rd Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT. Simply use the #orgdna hashtag to connect with participants, inquire on the topic, or participate in the chat itself at the appointed hour. It’s always a lively exchange. We hope you will join us!

Chris aka @sourcepov     Charlotte NC


Now Playing in the 21st Century Organization: Creativity, and Dialog at the Edge

Those who champion change and innovation know that open dialog is essential to spawn new thinking, deeper insights, and stakeholder buy-in. Dialog is often the spark that creates the energy needed to make things happen.

What about dialog at the edge?

By this, I’m thinking about discussions that take people and teams out of their comfort zones, into areas that aren’t traditionally aligned with their usual subject matter. Of course, we could hang this thought on the peg of “getting outside the box” and move on. But I think there’s more to it. I believe thinking at the edge unlocks creativity in the organization, the place from which true change can emerge.

A common problem of group conversations among like-minded thinkers is group-think. Everyone is biased toward agreement. Comfort is derived for sameness. Change never gets a chance. More cutting edge facilitators take those same thinkers and collaborators into less familiar waters. It might be a conversation based on improv. Or a field trip to unusual places. Anything to force a change of thinking, to bring new insights to significant problems.

Let’s take a look at some basic ideas of how edge thinking might work in practice, and explore both challenges and enablers of creativity in the modern organization:

  • Q1. Edge Thinking. Are there clear connections between creativity and thinking at the edge?
  • Q2. Boundary Keeping. Some say facilitation of boundary crossing adds value. Do we need traffic cops? Will edge explorers listen?
  • Q3. Trust. What role does trust play in orgs, as creatives seek to take risks?
  • Q4. Digression, or No? Many struggle with edge dialog’s many perceived rabbit trails. How do we know when to follow a thread?
  • Q5. ROI of Edges. It is difficult to stray from the comfortable. Can we quantify value when creative solutions are defining new baselines?
  • Q6. Design Thinking. Does it thrive on edges? How so?

Bring your ideas on creativity and edges, and we’ll work them in. When we’re in the zone, which is often of late, our discussion evolves with group input.

More? Some edge thinkers worth noting: Michelle James and Cathryn Hrudicka (creativity), John Hagel (edge strategies) and new arrival, prof. Eugene Gendlin (philosophy of edge thinking).

The #orgdna community meets every 3rd Monday from 9:30 to 11:00pm ET. We discuss challenges of leading and learning in the 21st century organization. We promise a lively dialog and a place to expand both your thinking, and your thinking network.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Knowledge collaboration tools and social media at work

While there are known favorites, success stories and both public domain and made-for-business networks out there o’plenty, adoption of social networks as fundamental ways of doing business is slow to come.

Some early predictions were that “intranet 2.0” would overtake tradiitonal methods of collaborating for most organizations by 2008. http://www.prescientdigital.com/articles/intranet-articles/intranet-2-0-social-media-adoption

Can we tease apart the elements that cause this slow uptake of what promised to be the ultimate silo buster, productivity enhancer and shared object holder? New programs like slack https://slack.com/ are gaining steam by aggregating common services… what other keys are there?

http://mobile.blogs.wsj.com/cio/2014/07/24/as-facebook-goes-parabolic-social-media-adoption-at-work-is-slower-affair/

Q1. What role does the structure of traditional software have in the slower than expected adoption of collaboration software?

Q2. What role does the organization as container play in the adoption rates?

Q3. What are the human elements involved?

Q4. What might critical success factors be of enabling tools for productivity?

Join the conversation on Monday, March 23, at 9 p.m. ET, using Twitter hashtag #cdna, as we unpack these questions.


Innovation Within Our Sphere(s) of Influence:

The first point in any decision to change is a realization or recognition there is a need; that is to say, we have deemed our Present Condition to be Unacceptable. Ideally we have quantifiable measurements, and that may not be the case. We then envision a Future Condition which is forecast to be desirable.

Having decided we want to bring about this Future Condition, a Plan of Action is developed and implemented. There are a number of variables to be considered, sets of terms which drive the type of activity. The combinations of these variables are not fininite; however, they need to be understood and the impact examined. We can look first at the two broad categories (these are depicted in the attached Chart):

  1. Adoption which results in Change; and,
  2. Innovation which leads to Transformation.

These terms are defined as follows:

  • Adoption: The use of a different method from that which is in current use;
  • Change: Substitution to become different;
  • Innovation: Changing the established in favor of new methods or ideas (in use for the 1st time);
  • Transformation: Resulting in new composition or structure; thorough and dynamic.

Joseph Pine II in his 1999 book “The Experience Economy” describes the transformation of the economy from: Agrarian to Commodity to Service to Experience. The logic and support is quite clear and leads us to understand economies are dynamic. I was able to hear him speak a number of years ago where he noted his understanding of the next stage in the evolution of the economy. Pine described the Transformation Economy.

In the Experience Economy a vacation to Paradise Island in the Bahamas is exactly what it is intended to be: a wonderful experience. The time and expense meet the requirements of our expectations; however, we exit the same as we entered. Two weeks in the Colorado mountains at a retreat that focuses on exercise, diet, and mental health is intended to cause us to “take better care of ourselves” following that event – we anticipate a Transformation.

For final consideration: Spheres of Influence. There are five binary spheres in-play giving rise to complexity of combination. These spheres are:

  • Ourselves | Others  – (Personal reach);
  • Present | Future  – (Time horizon);
  • Direct | Indirect  – (Intensity of Action);
  • Individual | Group  – (Extent of reach);
  • Actual | Virtual  – (Network involved).

We accept the general need to change or become irrelevant. Adoption may be the course for organizations and individuals in most circumstances – applying “tried and true” methods to achieve the desired condition. When is Innovation the better choice?

Proposed Questions for the chat scheduled for January 19th, 2015:

  1. Adopt to Change and Innovate to Transform; Correct or other categories?
  2. What are our Spheres of Influence?
  3. Is there a way to determine if Innovation is better that Adoption?
  4. Can we utilize Pine’s Transformation Economy concept to build a biz model?
  5. What happens when the Desired State forecast proves inaccurate?

Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts and discuss them with each of you!Innovation.3


Intellectual Property Evolves: IP 3.0 and the Value of Good Ideas

Can we unlock innovation on the collaborative web?

Can we unlock innovation on the collaborative web?

It’s no overstatement. Good ideas are the fabric of creativity and innovation. Small wonder that over time we’ve learned to hoard and protect those good ideas. Fear of economic survival has been a great motivator. Our personal and corporate livelihoods .. in the context of income and profit .. can seem tightly linked with knowledge and resources that are ours alone.

Only problem? The forces that seek to protect our best ideas help us to strand them, starving them of opportunity to grow. It’s ironic. But in our attempts to protect, we suffocate. We always hurt the ideas we love.

Steven B. Johnson has written extensively on new ideas, and he may be the clearest contemporary voice on the subject. Much of his thinking comes down to a radical, almost sacrilegious notion: the best ideas come from other great ideas. Corporate attorneys will tend to bristle at this. It’s counter to all we know about the value of ideas in a competitive market, and the legal structures put in place to protect our good and valuable property. That’s well and good. It’s based on 5 centuries of legal precedent. But are we paying attention to structural changes in the markets themselves, and how insight is flowing faster all around us? Are we starting to slip behind those who are better at listening and collaborating?

Let’s reflect on the evolution of ideas in the commercial space, to see where the concept of Intellectual Property (or more commonly “IP”) may go:

  • IP1.0 Knowledge as Property. Using patents to protect unique designs, inventors claim rights to exclusive ways of doing something in hopes of economic advantage, but the rights are routinely contested in courts, tying up ideas, time and dollars.
  • IP2.0 Commons. Establishing intent to share ideas in the public domain, a new system provides  a way to classify shared content; while promising, the value and mechanics of the model are still being worked out.
  • IP3.0 Collaboration. An open and free exchange of ideas has been mostly on the commercial back burner, rendered inviable by centuries-old capitalist tradition of control and exclusion. Is the knowledge economy held hostage?

I am not suggesting we abandon IP and its associated legal underpinnings. Too much has been invested here, with whole industries and companies built on it’s foundation. The Creative Commons is clearly a step in the right direction. But for the long term, and especially as we consider the forces at work in a knowledge based economy, plodding along slowly may be the greater risk.  If we continue to hoard and protect our best ideas, hoping to cling to a razor thin economic advantage, we are effectively cutting off sources of further innovation.

I believe there are several collaborative building blocks in a healthy knowledge economy, elements of a framework that can unlock the flow of thinking that leads to deeper innovation. I’ve written on this topic, and we should continue to unlock its elements.

The practice of Knowledge Mangement (or “KM”) also continues to make inroads on how we marshall our ideas, but it’s an undertaking that often struggles. There are lessons to be learned from this, even as KM practitioners search for new paths forward.

It’s impossible, of course, to reduce innovation to a formula. Though many models are in place to help us visualize competitive knowledge and the dynamics that influence it (Porter’s “5 Forces” comes to mind), the evolution of ideas .. true innovation .. always comes back to people working with people. Our best ideas are made richer and more viable with the input from somone else. And our own musings may be the inspiration that brings the vague notions of others to fruition. Whatever the model, we’ll remain suboptimized as long as we hoard our best ideas. The advance of knowledge simply doesn’t work when it is kept behind locked doors. In 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter:

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Illuminating, yes, but an insight on ideas that has been generally lost.

SLA CID WEBINAR

  • On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 1pm ET, I spoke at a webinar hosted by the Special Library Association’s Competitive Intelligence Division. We talked about evolving perspectives on how organizations and even ecosystems gain knowledge, exploring trends shared in this post, as well as some of the key drivers in Knowledge Management.  I hope you were able to join us.
  • If you missed it, here’s a link to the SLA CID recorded webinar page on You Tube; watch for our session to be posted soon.
  • We’ve also linked to the webinar PDF.

Best regards .. have a safe and happy holiday!

Chris aka @sourcepov

 

ADDITIONAL READING


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