Sunday, August 15, 2010

Order and Chaos. Organizational Theory 101.

The organization is the difference between order and chaos. (All living systems 'self organize' to find order in the chaos.) It is the human ability to orchestrate organization that makes our economy of life unique among all living things.

If you were to look around, no matter from where you are reading this post, it is the human's ability to organize in a visionary way that makes everything around you possible. For better or worse.

What needs to be made more explicit, is if we are going to continue to enjoy sustainable degrees of economic comfort and economic growth, getting more productivity from out of organizations is no trivial matter.

If that is clear enough, and it should be, the question isn't if but rather how.
Yet, this neatly drills into two things that challenge organizations. The question of if and the question of how.

Of the two, it's a coin toss which is tougher.

The question of 'if' gets clouded by the sense of security profitability gives. The if it isn't broken, don't fix it mentality is pretty innate in most people. If an organization has grown to be sizable, something also sets it which clouds the ability to pro-actively gain more productivity--and that is the organizations propensity to become bureaucratic. People for reasons that are in many ways perfectly rational want to acquire power around the security and money leveraged by the positions they climb up to in the organizational hierarchy.

Hierarchical structure and bureaucracy are, if we dig deep enough, the self-organizing behaviours  of most organizations, and present one of, if not the biggest, impediments to growth and adaptability to changing operating environments.

I don't think I am shocking anybody here by saying that profitability and natural self interests of upper management create a paradoxical fog that obscures and inhibits the ability to clearly see the need to adapt new methods to make themselves more productive and adaptable to the change that is always around us.

The second one, 'how', can be harder still for an organization to grasp. For the simple reason it's neither obvious, or easy.

As a consultant who specializes in making organizations more productive, and more adaptive to the rapidly changing conditions of the coming years, frankly, I love it! For my self interests, I see unlimited growth for what I do. There is a certain delicious irony in what I do, as it is my independence from the organization that makes me effective. I have to laugh, however, as it is also the organization's own anti-bodies (living systems geek speak there!) that makes it difficult for me to help an organization.

I can be one of the most valuable assets an organization can have, yet, because I represent change and disorder to the natural power structures within an organization, that fear factor is amazingly effective in preventing me from bring value to an organization.

Now, because you've invested your valuable time in reading this far, I'm going to assume you are if not smarter, at least you have greater intellectual curiousity than 90% of people, and I'm going to throw this at you to think of. (this is also shameless self-promotion!)

In theory of the mind, we cannot know our own minds. That is, there are limits to how well we can know our own minds. Why that is so fills more books than you can reasonably read, but the take away here is we are for good reason very good at being able to fool ourselves.
The same goes for an organization. There are limits as to how well it can know it's own self.

Even more difficult still, is that organizations are a collection of human minds.

Again, ironically, this creates a host of psychological issues to preventing organizations to seeing the need to change and adapt--it is the very nature of organization that becomes the biggest barrier to productive improvement.

I've asked you to make some pretty long leaps here, but to tie this post off, here is where we've landed.
For organizations--and people--to change and develop more productive and adaptive methods they need to move from the comfort and security of order towards the destabilizing nature of chaos.
This is the "creative destruction" that the great economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote about in 1942. My ideas, as you can see, are not all that new.
Living systems, economies, and your organization all must oscillate between order and chaos. It is the way of life.

To move towards the innovations and invigorating edge of chaos, you need belief, a strong vision of where that journey will take you, and a process.
It excites me to no end I get to help you or your organization to find all three.

No comments:

Post a Comment