My first steps towards understanding organisations.
I realised early on in my pursuit of understanding organisations and organisational structure, that they go beyond simple organigrams, hierarchy charts, and structure drawings. Organisations are living and adaptable, and yet at the same time, set in specific company-centric ways.
I discovered a disconnect between what companies strive towards — adaptability and dynamism — and what their operating model showed: rigidity. As a result, this disconnect lessened the experience for employees, customers, partners, and stakeholders. Which ultimately led me to the invention of a new operating model.
In the beginning, I dug up many theories and frameworks, from people such as Charles Handy, Henry Mintzberg, and Robert Keidal; and more recent work by Niles Pflaeging around Organising for Complexity. It then confirmed my assumption that an operating model that is adaptable to changes from external forces, rather than a rigid organisational structure only representing the company, was where immense value existed.
This became my one of my obsessions while working as a coach.
Seeing an organisation through the fog of politics and paper-stacks of bureaucracy is one of the most challenging tasks when doing what I am doing. Personally, after many years of working with different companies, I have developed my view of how I start analysing them, and it has brought me a unique methodology that I thought to share: this article and the upcoming article series are the result of that.
I see organisations as living organisms that can either shelter or adapt themselves based on four layers of interacting variables: Product/Service, People, Processes/Procedures, and Culture. Most companies pride themselves on adaption due to rapidly changing environments. Although, what I have experienced is that organisations do not follow such an adaptable mindset. The organisational structure is rigid and needs to reflect the opposite: dynamism and adaptability.
Here is how I identify it.
Each layer referenced above is affected by the same external forces around them, like market, competition, events like the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the influence from internal company forces.
The four layers, I have found, are where I can identify, determine, and ultimately bring value to an organisation, transforming them for the better.
In metaphorical terms, spurring the changing winds to fuel the Organisational Pinwheel.
So, let us go through them.
Product/Service is what the customer sees and experiences. Essentially, understanding the organisation through the context of the customer.
Because by backtracking the customer’s journey with the product or service to how the company delivers such service or product, is an excellent way of understanding an organisation and how it operates. Incidentally, this layer is also the most visible from the outside and directly interacts and responds to changing market conditions. But in many ways, there is a disconnect with the people delivering the value.
People together, working in tandem, is what an organisation is consistent of – so understanding the people is to understand the organisation.
But the people outside of customer service reps or experience agents are hidden away in offices, making organisations responsible for motivating people to deliver value to an unknown customer quite challenging. So, understanding how this is achieved, makes me understand the organisation at a deeper level.
Next we have the Processes & Procedures.
I have learned through my many years of being a coach that there is a difference to what is stipulated on paper compared to how an organisation runs in reality.
For example, the silent agent is the person, or people, who pull many strings no matter their rank or responsibility. These agents are usually hidden from organisational charts and the people-tab of the ‘About Us’ page. But by investigating how processes and procedures flow within an organisation, you get intimate insights into how that company’s organisation operates: how the people collaborate.
These three layers then form an organisation’s ‘Culture‘.
Which I define as methods and customs utilised to run the previous three layers.
This culture layer is where changing effects from external market conditions must be accepted and adapted upon; fuelling it.
For example, a method I utilise for exposing the ‘real’ culture of an organisation is to impose simulated stress. As pressure on the organisation reveals how the value is delivered through the product/service, how the people interact, and how the processes flow to supply the value.
In a sense, the actual colours of the organisation expose itself.
Through these four layers, I can understand and identify organisations, and through my insights into the organisation’s culture, I can propose modifications that superiorly adapt to market changes.
In essence, making the Cultural Pinwheel accept the changing winds powering the Pinwheel of Business adaptability. See the graphic above.
This is how I came to understand the living organisms that are organisations, and it led me to design a new revolutionary framework to aid business adaptability and organizational culture.
Helping them not only adopt the changes from the market but also motivate them to deliver greater value and grow as a result.
But that is for the next series of articles.
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