What is emerging today?

One thing to consider when you start your next organisational improvement campaign, be it introducing agile, improving your agile practices or, in fact, any sort of change you want: you are not in control of what happens. You never were. You never will. No matter how much the official org chart of your company claims you are in a control position, you are not.

The concept of an organisation as hierarchy as we know it is not the natural „way things are“ but rather a product of our perceptions on how a company should work. It is, in fact, very much based on the newtonian-cartesian way of splitting up a big problem in small ones so they can possibly be solved easily.

In the same way a mirror broken into pieces does not reflect your image that well, also a compartimentalised organisation is probably not likely to give you the best possible setup to serve your customers. (The mirror metaphor is actually from Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline)

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In an organisation – better, in any social system – there are a lot of informal structures all co-existing and overlapping: from the network of people playing football together to the one who likes to hang out for a beer. These are, as well as the official company hierarchical lines of communication, all forces that compete asynchronously and build a company culture. Sure enough, the org chart is a very strong influencing structure, but not the only one and not necessarily the most powerful.

The end result of this interplay is, of course, very difficult to predict. Culture is always an emergent feature in a system, always evolving. What emerges, however, cannot be controlled.

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The good news is you can influence it in millions of different ways. Finding out those ways is what today’s leadership is about!

P.S. This post is dedicated to the memory of all the companies ruined by a non-systemic and complexity-unaware organisational development initiative.

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