The Contemporary Organization
The emerging organization is breaking down the divides between owner, manager, and employee: all roles are assumed by one person or group. Generally it all starts with an idea around which a group of free agents or entrepreneurs gather. They are highly-skilled individuals who have a common interest and divide the task among themselves according to their individual skills. The work is project-based, and legal relationships are ‘open’. Contracts are not enslaving and group members may have other project engagements.
Self-Organizing Ends Forced Structures
Free will and the strength of the group’s relationship and integrity determine their sticking power. Because they are accountable to themselves, internal regulations and self-scrutiny allows them to stay competitive. Corrections are made as performance or capability gaps arise. An organization based on such a model is vulnerable to shift because “managers” cannot exploit “employees” or fib about their performance to “share-holders.” Therefore, it constantly scrutinizes the external scenario to study opportunities or threats. Because such an organization is basically an idea “hub” around which skills have gathered as ‘spokes’ to get things rolling, it is knowledgeable on its own design and area of expertise.
Change, to the members of an intelligent organization, is a matter of perceiving things accurately and swiftly. As well as they perceive change, they can modify their own selves; they are not required to convince a separate entity (an owner, manager, employee). Hence, they evolve to suit the new circumstances. This is called “self-organization.” (Not very different from how the very intelligent “virus” works!)
Why Traditional Dis-integrity No Longer Works
Most of the troubles harrowing today’s organizations are rooted in their disintegrated structure, which pits one part against another. It is a bit like the heart of a body taking a disliking to the stomach. The results are not nice!
Employee care and growth is seen as a cost. Because the home is not the office manager’s problem, there is a divide between work and life, with one competitive to another. This has led to high emotional and healthcare costs globally, followed by turnover.
Curiously, this set-up perceives the world as hostile. It is geared to exploit more than just the compe-titors. With the increased awareness of the downsides of this approach has come around a doubt about the workability of this model. The truth is that this structure will not cut it any longer in a world where people are joining hands to save the planet and themselves and walls are being torn down.
How Integrated Organizations are Better
These organizations cut through layers of expensive hierarchy and the ensuing resentment. Collaboration is not just a new tool. It is a character-istic of such organizations. Decision-making is transparent, speedy, and agile. This subtle shift translates into a dramatic reduction in litigation.
Diversity emerges as the group automatically senses its “gaps” and fills them. There is no third-policy to bow to even when it’s flying in the face of common sense. People set rules, not vice versa.
Work is based on passion – a requirement as today’s work
requires high levels of knowledge, agility, and personal insight. Being passionate about your work is important as this fosters inspiration, creativity and innovation. The possibilities to a satisfied and creative person’s contributions are limitless!
Through their very design, such organizations are both geared to and restricted to contribute, else they will disintegrate as no policy nor external funding nor can lies protect them from external scrutiny. The final measure of the goodness of these organizations is their contribution to the larger community.
Three special cases of contribution possibilities are presented below:
Case 1: Innate Corporate Social Responsibility
Whose responsibility is the community anyway, when the elements of an organization itself don’t get together? The issue of an irresponsible organization could be closely related to its elements being competitive to each other. They are designed not to collaborate. Is it not surprising that as children we sincerely want to make the world a better place, and as adults, we derive our earnings from exploiting it? This personal-professional ethical dissonance is based in a lack of ownership.
The essence of Al Gore’s environ-mental campaign is that: “You cannot teach a man something if his salary depends on not under-standing it.” If salary is tied to performance, which is measured as reduced (internal) cost at any (external) cost, it is easy to see that this math puts the business interest as inverse to the community’s.
When a person owns a small business, it is likely to be close to his/her home, or in his/her home. That is also true for an entrepre-neurs’ group. Their children, family, friends, and lungs are breathing in that environment. Peace and security affect them. Social bonds exist within that area. This exerts not just an invisible social pressure, but more importantly, it creates an internal urge for responsibility. The entrepre-neurs are directly answerable to themselves and to their families. They can now manage their work and life, and are aware that others in the group have similar priorities.
The group members do not see each other as ‘bits’ of contract or policy, but genuine human beings with whom they have a personal relation-ship. This creates an entirely new ethic.
Case 2: A Faster Company Built on Trust
I recently lunched with a group of bloggers headed by a team that proposed a code of ethics – which turned out to be a result of their own past ‘worst practices’. Everyone laughed and the larger group decided this code is not in the spirit of blogging; but can be turned into guidelines on how to have a more interactive or professional blog. Business opportunities were swapped and deals were closed; all at the speed of a launch. Such fast organization was made possible by the trust that a blogger is ethically responsible to other bloggers not just by a sense of community, but also by a fear of earning a nasty blog entry in case of defection!
Case 3: Entrepreneurship Without Cubicle Borders
‘The Hub’ is an idea for a collabo-rative space for change agents. It started in London and has spread to other cities. Shared space is rented by hours, and free agents sit in an open space designed for communi-cation and collaboration. Typically the projects are social or civic in nature. Multi-disciplinary teams form and gather in the physical space, and the culture is self-evolving. Projects include women’s art businesses to technology camps and films. Start-ups are born here. This is the new shape of the collaborative enterprise.