Mental health and anxiety are issues that are increasingly to the fore. The wellbeing of employees cannot be separated from how their work is organized, and in so many companies that organization is inadequate for today’s complexity. Indeed, every day, people are struggling with the shortcomings and frustrations of a traditional hierarchical/functional organization. Careers are inevitably about climbing ladders and ‘control and command’ can encourage a bullying style of leadership. None of this is conducive to wellbeing.
At the same time, Digital Transformation is knocking at the door, huffing and puffing, pushing organizations towards the realization that silos are the enemy number one. The stress level for the C-suite is increasing daily as they are left wondering what the best direction can be. The Big Name consulting firms, mired in silo-thinking and hierarchy themselves, offer at best a hotch-potch of partial “solutions” that never address the real issue: a radical change in organizational design.
It’s all about frictionless flow
The less friction there is in the way people carry out their work, the less stress and frustration they will feel and the more their mental health and wellbeing are protected. The radical rethink needed for our age of complexity starts form the realization that work is all about flow. I.T. organizations understand this but their work is artificially complicated because of silos.
When we adopt a systemic viewpoint we can easily see an organization for what it is: a series of inputs that people (and their machines) have to transform into outputs. Zoom out and the same applies to entire supply chains. So the focus has to be, how can we accelerate flow with minimum variation?
The answer to that one has to start with creating the correct interdependencies among people given their competencies, and that means no silos.
Correctly designed interdependencies based on competencies solve several problems:
- improved communication and collaboration through the absence of silos;
- empowerment, in the sense that people have not just the responsibility but also the level of authority to carry out their work;
- satisfaction, in that people are not promoted to their level of incompetence, on the contrary they contribute to the goal of the organization with their competencies;
- potential can be developed and not be artificially suffocated or cramped within a vertical silo;
- fulfilment and a sense of purpose come with being called upon to contribute your competencies;
- intelligent emotions can be fostered when people are called upon to do only things that make sense (meaningful work).
Culture comes through organization design
It makes little sense to talk about improving culture, getting people to collaborate more or improve their efforts through teamwork without tackling organization design because organization design dictates culture.
The radical redesign that we propose after 20 years in the field is not about throwing hierarchy away. Rather, it creates a different kind of hierarchy based on competencies and responsibility for projects at different levels of complexity. We call it the Network of Projects.
The time is now to abandon outdated organization models and focus on building successful companies where the quality of life of employees is high. Everyone will benefit.
Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore, are trusted advisors to leaders of organizations. We blog about how to shift your thinking towards broader, systemic possibilities for yourself and your organization. Sign up to our blog here. Intelligent Management provides education and training on systemic management, W. Edwards Deming’s management philosophy and the Theory of Constraints (Decalogue methodology) in North America and Europe.
See our new books The Human Constraint – a business novel that has sold in 27 countries so far and ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York, by Dr. Domenico Lepore, Dr. .Angela Montgomery and Dr. Giovanni Siepe.