flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘networked organizations

Entrepreneur, leader, space creator

The great desk tidy continues.  Professional organizational designers will instantly recognize what I am going to describe as Level 2 or C Band in Paterson parlance.

Understanding what is needed when

Let’s imagine a mechanic.  He, and increasingly she, has served an apprenticeship, gone to college, and worked on lots of cars under the supervision of experienced mechanics.

A car arrives.  They look at it.  The learn of symptoms from the driver.  They make some investigations in a manner that any other trained mechanic would recognize as methodical (or haphazard).  They take action.

From time-to-time though, the bundle of symptoms is out-of-pattern.  It may be a rare case that they haven’t encountered before   It may be a complicated case where feedback to the basic tests they carry out is obscured and muddies the decision making process.  The case may be complicated by factors not really to do with the car itself.  Spare parts might be short or the car might be needed in less time than the mechanics need to do everything as well as they would like.

When the job becomes complicated, a more experienced colleague steps in “reads the situation” and explains the priorities to the skilled but inexperienced worker.  Now that they are oriented again to a set of tasks that they know how to do, they can pick up the task from there.

In time, of course, they become experienced themselves and mentor others.

Directing traffic

In an organization, the role of the experienced worker is sometimes played by a controller who cannot do the job themselves.  The archtypical example is the Air Traffic Controller, who prioritizes aircraft and coordinates them with each other and resources on the ground.  The controller is not the aircraft Captain’s boss.  But does give orders of a kind.

The intersections of networks

In networked industries, the role of the controller is likely to become more common.  They may have rudimentary grasp of the skills they coordinate – they may have the equivalent of a light aircraft license, they could join in firefighting in elementary roles, they can do elementary electronics – but they are specialized in control.  They have the mindset to concentrate on what is in front of them for long periods.   They have good mental maps which they keep up-to-date.  They are important enough for psychologists to study them in depth.  Indeed many of the advances in applied cognitive psychology have come from studying air traffic controllers.

And so it will be with “managers” of the future.  Though that term has developed so many connotations that we may have to drop it.

We will have people skilled at managing “space” where people come together to get things done.

People in this line of work will probably start early.  We will see them organizing conventional clubs at school, working online and developing mental models about how to create cooperative spaces in a networked world.

Five competences for space creators in our networked world

As I am on a great clean up of my paper world, I want to write down five competences that the “space creators” of the 21st century will have.

#1 What needs to be done

#2 Emotional energy to connect

#3 Form a collective umbrella

#4 Delegate tasks to protect the collective

#5 Keep commitments to positive emotional space

Sort of abstract but it follows a logic to be: what needs to be done, why are we bothered and how or why would this be our priority, what is the space that we need to work together, what are the important tasks to maintain this space and who will do them, are we having fun here?

How do we learn these skills?  A post for another day, I think.  First, any comment on the competences?

Multiplicator effect

I sat down this morning to ponder the multiplicater effect and what it tells us about management in the new age of knowledge and information.

This is how I look at it.

In the 1900’s

In the olden days, business was like a household budget. Money came in and money went out.

The way to get a bit richer was to take the job you did and get someone to do parts of it more cheaply than you could do yourself.

Let’s imagine I was a cobbler. If I could get you to stand in a line and one of you put on the soles, one thread the laces, and so on.  I could pay you each less than I could pay myself. And I could keep the profit that each would make if he worked for himself.

We used simple arithmetic and success was mainly about keeping the change.

Confusing housekeeping with economics

This business model leads to weird behaviour. Everyone believes that a one pound coin is indivisible. Either I have it, or you have it. And we fight to the death over it.

National wealth does not work like that. Indeed, company wealth doesn’t work like that.

Stock turn is important in shops. I don’t want to buy stock and having it sit on the shelves. I want it in and I want it out and the money banked. Circulation is the key. Not hoarding.

In a town, the same applies. When we fight over the one pound coin, we are wasting time and energy. Let me buy something from you with the coin. Then let you buy something from the next person and they from the next and ultimately someone buys from me. That one pound serves many of us. The more people served by the same one pound coin, the healthier the economy.

Installation art

I keep threatening to put an GPS device in a pound coin to follow it as it moves in the wild. If you would like to collaborate in that project, do get in touch.

In the 2000’s

In the modern business world, few of us are like the cobbler with a skill which can be broken into parts, each of which can be done by someone less skilled than us for less money than we would do it ourselves.

Adam Smith and the division of labor

In this day and age, that model of division of labour is a nonsense. Yes, it made perfect sense in the 1800 hundreds in Scotland when Adam Smith said that we can make more pins when we each made part of the pin. And maybe this rule-of-thumb is still true when we are making pins.

Today’s products are more complicated than pins

But in today’s world, we are often making something a lot more complicated than a pin. We’ve moved on. There isn’t any one person who has made the whole of what we are making. There isn’t any person who knows how to do everything. In truth, if we put a 1000 elves in with Santa we wouldn’t be able to draw or visualize exactly what we are making

We are like the blind men describing the elephant. I think the elephant is his trunk. You think it is his tail.

The elephant knows he is an elephant, of course. But he has no way of communicating with the blind men We have to wait until the blind men get the concept of a possible elephant and start communicating with each other. Then they can work out there is an elephant and what it looks like.

You cannot fool all of the people all of the time but there is no end to the people who will try

Now there are plenty of people out there trying to pretend that they know how to make a pin and hoping to delegate part of it to you. Notice well though, that they will be reluctant to give you a good contract that goes beyond chance.   They have no market for that pin. (Sorry people who make real pins ~ I know you are real.)

Before you part with an hour of your time, ask them for their sales report

The point is not that the heaven has finally fallen on Chicken Licken. The point is that the world is making bigger things than pins. When you hear someone claim that they understand the whole elephant and you should play a small part at the trunk for a pittance, ask sweetly to see the sales reports. They won’t show the report to you because it doesn’t exist.

Listen to those who want genuinely to collaborate

But when someone says, hey, I feel something interesting in front of me. What do you feel? Do you think there is any connection between what you feel and I feel? THEN, we have a show.

When we network our skills together, then we can make something that we cannot see alone.

This is not the age of division of labor

Division of labour aimed to do things faster and cheaper. Today’s world is about networking specialist labour to do something no one person or company can do alone.

This is the age of connecting with other skilled people

This is not the age of division of labour and making smaller and smaller things. This is the age of networking skill and making bigger and bigger things.

To be practical

As a career coach and work psychologist, I put my practical cap on and ask: what does this mean in practice?

  • The essential career tool of today is a set of modular pieces of work which have the potential to link up with others. I say potential because other people may not have work ready to link up.  We do our work anyway but rather than just do it, we do it in a way that has potential to link up with others so they can see where they could join in.
  • The essential career management tool of today is to be adaptable and do whatever work is available without losing sight of our skill base. The test of any task is not whether we are paid for it but whether we are willing to put it on our website for others to link up to.
  • The essential selection criteria for inclusion in a permanent team will be
    • number of modules we have available for others to use
    • the diversity of modules (are we able to clean the floor and do the accounts as readily as paint a Picasso)
    • the readiness at which we create modules in new situations (rate and diversity)
    • the connections we make with the team and importantly are now possible between other team members without our presence!
  • The ethics of selection come down to whether a person’s connections will be richer by working with us (do they become more creative and are they involved in richer sets of connections?)
  • Pay is likely to be more equal with money paid into development funds to pay for capital when it is needed and the opening up new opportunities. Where there are differentials they are likely to come from being central to a network because the pound moves through us more often (we buy and we sell). People who only sell should receive less.
  • Ranks of professions might change. Lets imagine we paid a toll to a receptionist each time we walked through the door. We might be come reluctant to have a receptionist. Indeed, this is a test of a division of labour philosophy operating. We may not need the service if we had to pay more for it. Let’s imagine the hospital workers mentioned in a paper today who create a lot more value than they take home. What if they decided to run a hospital and just hire the doctors and nurses around them. That makes sort of sense to me!
  • In the olden days, training meant starting with a small task and growing into the ‘owner’. Obviously the tasks in our early career will be small.  But what if the goal was to move increasingly into the centre of a network where we are able to work with a wider number of people?  Have the pound coin pass through us more often? What if the goal was to increase whom we are able to work with on a project of value?  What if I took a person into a room and said: take two people, figure out what they can do and figure out, not what you can sell to each of them, but what you can take/buy from one, transform and pass on to the next. It’s what entrepreneurs do, of course. But what if the entire training process was geared to the capacity to detect and executive collaboration?
  • Jane McGonigle lists the qualities of projects that have this magical capacity which I restated here I would look for these multiplicator competencies in someone’s portfolio and help them find opportunities to broaden their experience in new ways of working.

The beginning is the ability to do modular work that has capacity for collaboration. To be potentiated, so to speak, to collaborate. A change of focus but an important one. Learn to be a multiplier rather than a taker.

I am tidying up my blog and I like this post that I wrote in January about Obama’s arrival at the White House.  Obama’s worldwind activity foreshadows how we will all work in future. Fast, decisive and above all, very dependent on our colleagues.

I am an Obama-fan.  You may not be.  But then it is all the more important to study the effectiveness of ‘his machinery’.  Read carefully!

For psychologists, coaches and aspiring leaders, I’d be interested in your comments on the four points of effective living in the networked age the summaries that I added in italics and how life has changed.

I’ve also highlighted in red the work of leading a huge immensely talented team. Since I wrote this in January, I have become convinced that management and leadership will not change much in the networked age.  It will just rest less on command-and-control and more on orientation, synthesis and coordination.  I’d love your thoughts.

Learning from Barack

Day Two, Barack Obama continues with his extraordinary pace.  With Hillary Clinton, on her first day, he appoints experienced Special Envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan.  His Communications Director gives the first press briefing, and he tours the Press Room personally in a surprise visit.  He signs Executive Orders, closing Guatanamo, and reinforcing the Freedom of Information Act (or US equivalent).

Importantly, he has done all of this in public view.  For many of us, this is a welcome inclusion in the process of government.  For others, this is a useful preview of work, leadership and management in the decades ahead.

Networking our work

We are seeing networked government in action.

Obama’s Blackberry is its symbol.  He uses rapid, brief electronic communication, but his communications are neither thoughtless nor ephemeral.  Indeed, as President, all his communications are recorded.

Everyone in the network was invited in for their experience and professionalism.  They are able to assimilate new information quickly, point out what they don’t know, and act accordingly.  Not everyone is old.  His Director of Speech Writing is 27 and has acquired experience, confidence and judgment through successive elections.

The network moves with dazzling speed.  Though they were able to prepare for these two days, they have been moving office, moving house, and waiting for confirmation of some senior people.

Networking our work

All work is going the same way, and we have questions.

How do young people get experience to join in at this level?  How do we work with a leader whose vision is different to ours?

There seem to be 4 rules to this new way of living and working.

#1  Find our own vision

We have to find our own vision, build our own networks, and develop the mindful working skills to work with very skilled people in networks that are forever reforming and reshaping as they responding to world events.

Even the youngest among us needs to adopt a posture of leadership.  We all need to be bold enough to work out our vision and identify the best people to take us there.

#2  Act

Dreaming is not enough.  We need to reach out and be the bridge between people who are part of our vision.

#3  Be present

Personally and electronically, monitoring and nurturing involvement and direction.

#4  And because we need to be present, we can only pursue “one vision at a time”.

Whatever we pursue should be big enough and important enough for us to spend all our time with it.

Learning from the master

I am glad we can watch the President at work.  He helps me pinpoint 3 challenges to ask myself at any moment.

#1 Those of us who grew up in hierarchical systems at home, school and work, may find it difficult to imagine a system where we are all leaders and that we are actually guiding an entire network at the moment when ‘the ball passes to us’.

At this moment, I am holding the ball.  I am mistress of the universe. Quick!  What is my vision?  What do want for the world and what am I promising to work at with all my heart and all my might?

#2 Before the internet, we were able to compartmentalize our lives, putting on a mask as we went to work, and taking it off again on the way home.  In this interconnected world, like the President in the gold fish bowl of the White House, we need to live as we mean to live, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing.

Is what I am doing ‘so together’ that I am happy for everyone to see it?  If not, why am I wasting time and energy on it?

#3 And hardest of all, the old systems allowed us to ‘sleepwalk’ and blame the inadequacies of our lives on the ‘owners of the vision’.  There was no need to be fully present, and it was probably better not to be.

Networked work requires us to be mindful.  Just as we are part of a large fast moving network, today is part of a seamless stream of yesterday, today and tomorrow, and for today to play its part, we need to revere today and live it fully.

If this place that I have come to is not where I want to be,  what must I attend to fully to take me on my way?

Day Three

So today is Day Three.  The President will have another tight schedule.  He relies on the many competent people he has brought in to play their part without minute direction, but with minute coordination.

His role and contribution is to keep the common vision alive, to acknowledge and value the smallest contributions, and to ensure that the network gets rapid feedback about the way the world receives our actions, so we are able to respond effectively and appropriately in real time.

Our Day Three

Networked times have come and take some readjustment of our thinking.  It is good to watch Obama in a White House that seems to have developed a glass front.

Our role is to start to take part.  And our first step is to work on a personal vision, which is important enough to pursue with all our heart and all our mind, beginning in the situation in which we find ourselves today.

It is a big task.  I am on to it.  Are you?

Without good governance, life is solitary poor, nasty, brutish and short

So said Hobbes of countries.  This philosophy also underlies organizational theory.  Without good structure

“.  .  .  organisations, particularly large ones, are not very conscious. There is not some malign [in]efficiency at the core of them, rather semi-conscious shuffles and bodges in various directions, which are beyond the ability of any single individual to do much about. I think that animal-herd behaviour is much the best model to describe collective humanity, however intelligent and aware the individuals within it may be.”

The goals of organizational stewards is to help us be aware at an organizational level

The goal of those of us who are organizational stewards is to create organizations that are aware at an organizational level.  How do we know what we do and the effects of our actions?  This has been the subject of organizational theory since armies began and certainly since Henri Fayol wrote down how to manage the managers in his coal mine at the turn of the century.

The “cleft stick” approach in classical organizations

Until the emergence of the internet, we concentrated on designing the communication systems within the organization on a “cleft stick” basis.  Who spoke to whom?  Who had the right to decide?  Who must be consulted?  Etc, etc.

To bring it all together, we followed the apex of the organization and indeed one of the most important rules of organizational design was showing the link between each person and the person at the “top”.

We all know how well we did on the ‘classical organization project’.  Most organizations were not stewarded well and there was little attempt to manage communication properly.  Even where communication channels were well designed, in reality, information was often not passed around as it needed to be ~ sometimes with horrendous results.

The networked organizations

The internet creates another way to provide group consciousness.  We can all talk to each other directly; and we can use search engines, such as Google to find information much more quickly than ever before.

Google is an example of a company run this way (see Gary Hamel interviewing Eric Schmidt on YouTube).  There is no need for the cumbersome organizational structures of the past precisely because there is another way of creating group consciousness.

New skills for organizational stewards in the networked world

It takes new skills, of course, to develop this raised consciousness.  We are very likely to be savvy as internet users and creators.

  • We also have to understand how to read the results of the internet – judging provenance and the reliability of information.
  • We have to read the mood.
  • We have to learn to influence through this medium.
  • And we have to show that we can deliver results in the ‘real world’ through this new organizational ether.

It is time to develop the curriculum!

Who is in?  These are the questions that spring to my mind.  Who is working in this field?  What are the classical case studies?  What are the central ideas?  What are the best ways of exploring the ideas?

What is the best way of generating consciousness in the field itself?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.


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