If there is no traditional hierarchy, how can your career progress? Digital cowboys, the new generation of talent described in Pekka Viljakainen’s book ‘No Fear’ , reject the form and values of the traditional organization. We continue our series in response to Pekka’s invitation to outline how we at Intelligent Management would tackle driving out fear in the post-digital age.
There is a real cognitive ordeal to overcome before we can embrace the idea of a project-based, systemic organizational structure: we feel we lose all our familiar reference points. We are accustomed to having “a career” in a functional area with a “boss” that assesses our functional performances and a “bonus” paid to reward a local optimum. This is so true that even if we understand that these things do not make sense we still struggle to give them up. Yes, we may like the idea of a “systemic organization”, it makes sense to us but…hey, don’t take away my local certainties: I need a boss to report to, I want to be measured locally (how else?) and I do want my bonus for doing my job well and loyally (to the boss). What the heck!
Let’s see how we can accommodate, at least rationally, for these seemingly indispensable features of our professional life. A systemic organizational structure that is based on process predictability and a high level of synchronization must safely rest on:
a) A clearly, indeed “super-clearly” laid out network of conversations (what everyone needs to say to everyone else to make processes work: input, output, how to measure it and how to improve it; indeed, how the process should work). We can call it “The Playbook”;
b) A suitable Information System structure to support these conversations.
These two issues are neither conceptually nor technologically difficult to address. The network of conversations requires clear ideas and sufficient know-how on how to operate the company’s processes and how to link them together. It can be built in weeks, not months, for any mid-sized company and a few more weeks are needed to expose anyone in the company to the outcome of this work. The suitable Information System structure is even simpler: the different pieces that would make up this IS are already available as open source and all it takes is clarity on what an IS should be for. Unfortunately, concepts and technologies are the offspring of paradigms and these paradigms are originated by forces; often we are not trained to understand and control these forces. Let’s digress for a second.
The structure of a systemic organization must be based on predictability and synchronization. Predictability is ensured by technical/subject matter prowess and synchronization is ensured by the ability to combine these competencies effectively.
A person can have a strong technical competence and love the idea of exercising that competence all day long; another may have a lesser inclination for any particular subject matter but be versed in the art and science of managing complex projects. In a systemic organization both these people have a chance to progress and this progression doesn’t need to be artificially hindered by functional boundaries.
In a systemic organization, anyone, at any time, is part of a project. They lend their competence to a project that is designed, along with all the other projects the company is made up of, to maximize the results of the whole company towards its goal. Some people will develop competencies for managing increasingly complex projects, some others will continue to deepen their competencies and enrich the content base of the company. Most importantly, all of them will naturally be placed on a continuous learning pattern.
In our next post we’ll look at learning (and why Finland is ahead of the curve).
No Fear in the Workplace – Making It Happen
Drive Out Fear by Learning to Think Systemically
Don’t Climb, Grow! Success in the Systemic Organization
Can We Do Away with Hierarchy?
The Network of Projects: Driving Out Fear in the Post-Digital Age
Start Making Sense: Introduction To Statistical Process Control
Sechel: Logic, Language and Tools to Manage Any Organization as a Network of Projects