Last month we published ‘Team of Teams – a Systems View‘ that garnered quite a bit of attention. The subject of teams is a hot one. Articles on the matter abound, like this one from Deloitte, ‘ Organizational Design – The Rise of Teams’
According to Deloitte, “Businesses are reinventing themselves to operate as networks of teams to keep pace with the challenges of a fluid, unpredictable world.”
They conclude by saying:
The days of the top-down hierarchical organization are slowly coming to an end, but changing the organization chart is only a small part of the transition to a network of teams. The larger, more important, and more urgent part is to change how an organization actually works. Now, more than ever, is the time to challenge traditional organizational structures, empower teams, hold people accountable, and focus on building a culture of shared information, shared vision, and shared direction.
At Intelligent Management we’re only too happy to hear this. For almost 20 years we’ve been bringing a systemic model of management to organizations. Simply put, it’s a more intelligent, practical and satisfying way to build Quality, Involvement and Flow. We talk at length elsewhere about a model and a method to make this happen operationally and we call it the Network of Projects. This model is based on more than just a network of teams. It requires process predictability and a high level of synchronization.
There is a real cognitive ordeal, however, to overcome before we can embrace the idea of a network of teams or project-based 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, and yet we will balk when someone tries to take away our 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 it takes operationally
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 the following:
- A clearly, even 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.”
- A suitable Information System (IS) 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 knowhow 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 IS 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.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint , so far purchased in 22 countries around the globe. This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.