New approaches in organization design: Views from key thought leaders
On Friday I participated in a conference organized by the Organizational Design Community, a network of academics, consultants and executives.
The conference was hosted by Harvard Business School and several of its faculty members participated. It was led and facilitated by Borge Obel from the Aarhus Business School in Denmark.
A number of brief presentations were held with some time for discussion afterwards. All of the presentations were interesting and thought-provoking, but I’ll highlight three of them that I thought were particularly relevant for readers of this blog.
If you have followed this blog, you know that I have been interested in multidimensional organizations. In my book I write about alternative ways of structuring organizations with three dimensions. In his presentation, Jay Galbraith (author/consultant) went one step further in pointing out that some organizations (like Procter & Gamble) now have four dimensions (see picture above).
But he also noted the challenges that this implies in terms of coordinating an exponential increase in interdependencies. He mentioned that business process automation is a new coordination mechanism that may help address this challenge.
The goal for Ray Levitt – professor at the engineering school at Stanford University – is to enable managers to design organizations the way engineers build bridges. He and his team has built a simulation/modelling tool (Virtual Design Team, or VDT) that can be used to support the planning and execution of large engineering projects.
The starting point is an analysis of the individual project activities, their estimated time, and their interpendencies. Based on such data, the tool can be used to predict the probability of delays and breakdowns in the deliverables.
Initially they used this approach to model relatively routine activities in well defined projects but have now moved to more complex projects involving multiple stakeholders.
Moving to organizational change and implementation issues, Michael Beer (professor emeritus at Harvard) described an approach he calls the Strategic Fitness Process. The approach resembles many existing organization development and change interventions, but he combines them in a new way.
The key idea seemed to be to use mid-level managers as the “consultants”, in that mid-level managers would form a task force and diagnose organizational problems and opportunities.
The task force would present their findings in a “fishbowl” session where senior managers are only allowed to ask questions for clarification. The key idea is of course to ensure that senior managers get a good, unfiltered understanding of current situation inside the organization before making decisions about any changes.
These are all topics that I will return to in future articles on this blog. Stay tuned!