June 24, 2009

It’s Not Just About Culture

There are organizations in this world that ‘get it’, there are those that are figuring it out, and there are those that just can’t see the light.

I’m referring to the tsunami of change concerning the way in which people expect to operate, not just inside the corporate walls, but as good ole human beings.

You may argue that Gary Hamel and Thomas Malone were (or are) ahead of their time. In each of their revolutionary (and obviously evolutionary) books (The Future of Management and The Future of Work), the underlying principle is that in order to drive results, innovation, productivity and efficient use of time, the organization needs to become flat.

Malone states ““As managers, we need to shift our thinking from command and control to coordinate and cultivate — the best way to gain power is sometimes to give it away.”

Hamel opines “… management and organizational innovation often lags far behind technological innovation. Right now, your company has 21st-century, Internet-enabled business processes, mid-20th-century management processes, all built atop 19th-century management principles. Without a transformation in our management DNA, the power of the Web to transform the work of management will go unexploited.”

But in reality, it’s not just about the organizational structure. I believe, in order to achieve a Work 2.0 mantra in the workplace, we need to combine our thinking around structure, systems and culture.

Structure refers to the aforementioned ‘flat-based hierarchy”, or heterarchy. (perhaps wirearchy as Jon Husband coined)

Systems are the actual technologies AND processes that allow the structure to happen. If the systems and processes are in fact segregated, decoupled or found in silos themselves, one will never achieve the Work 2.0 vision.

Culture is a little tricky, as one might argue this is in fact the Work 2.0 vision itself, but in reality, an organization has to help formally shape the culture, in an unconscious way. Culture gets a bad reputation in many circles, but think of it as an organizational philosophy. (ie. it’s encouraged to ask questions, it’s ok to have differing opinions, share everything you know, etc.) I do like Michael Idinopulos’ opinion on culture not being a starting point. The culture (or philosophy) is part of the overall Work 2.0 mix.

By combining the structure (ie. management flattening aspects) with the systems and culture, I think you’d see organizations a lot healthier, and ready for future challenges, particularly as Gen X and Millenials take on more responsibilities within the org.

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