Traditionally organizations are not very adaptive, but follow a hierarchical model. The founder, the CEO or other Board of Directors are on top and make decisions for the tiers lower to them. Organixzations expect from their managers and directors to foresee the future. They believe that they have the most experience and knowledge.
After that, middle management will receive those decisions and carry out the tactical approach towards those decisions. While the top management are the thinkers, the middle management are the controllers. Finally, the doers will carry out the job commanded by. Consequently, they do not have much to say.
Taylorism - The Principles of Scientific Management
The above mentioned basic hierarchies of traditional organizations is based on the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor. It is one of the main reason, why today we are so wealthy .
However, he published the book "The principles of Scientific Management" in 1911. We all agree, that the world today is completely different. The world became more complex and less predictable. We need to be more adaptive. Technological as well as cultural and economical advancements have made the corporate world far more different than 100 years ago. Consequently, the person on top at the company cannot have alls answers anymore and need to much more rely on their employees.
Adaptive in Organizations
System Thinkers look at organizations as a system. A system consists of parts (e.g. individuals, sub systems, processes, etc.). Together, those parts are behaving unpredictably and adaptively to the environment and context they are in. Organizations as such, therefore, do need to be made adaptive to accept this reality.
The role of Top management therefore, is not to control the adaptation of the organization. It is important to allow for the adaptation and provide guard rails, in between which the teams can navigate. Innovative organizations such as Google, Atlassian or Gore Technologies allow that by giving their employees freedom to decide what to work on. Other organizations as Whole Foods or Patagonia developed their guard rails based on values, they want to follow. Such organizations work differently, than what we learnt from Taylor. They do not design the system and try to control each part of the system. In contrast, they allow for individual freedom as long as the vision as awhole is not endangered.
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