Fluid times, Org Structures and Leadership


courtesy of HMI

For as long as we can imagine and regardless of structure, most organizations have applied autocratic methods when selecting or appointing new leadership… in general, these methodologies aimed for the new appointments to follow and reinforce established corporate views and/or culture and deliver to a largely pre-determined agenda.

Nowadays, dazed by nearly two years of relentless economic and financial breakdowns and increasing regulatory and market scrutiny, there are views that continuing and anticipated further challenges over the coming decade will demand a new breed of networking and collaborative leadership, and drive a rise in flat/leaner organizations over matrix bound ones, which on the later, some believe will falter and in-time disappear altogether.

However, I do not consider this a logical view… matriced structures are designed and especially apt at mitigating risk by imbedding balanced planning, collaborative if not aligned decisions and consistency of outcomes into an organization.

Albeit cumbersome and at-first awkward to grasp and manage, in instances where ad-hoc creativity or unstructured experimentation could be viewed as “liabilities”; like within process driven organizations or heavily regulated public and private sector practices, they are remarkably effective at driving organizational cohesion and controlled outflows.

“Power”, with all its good and bad permutations, is within matriced structures much more diffused throughout the organization (a “good” thing) than in their “simpler” cousins; the nearly ubiquitous hierarchical driven pyramid structures, which in-fact end up concentrating “power” (and sometimes shielding it) at its peak and from there “directing” the rest of the organization.

Flat structures on the other hand, were “built-for-speed”…they promote and generate “culture” driven, shape-shifting fluid organizations where many good things like creativity, learning and experimentation can broadly happen, evolve and mutate very rapidly. However, they can also suffer from or be exposed to some not-so-good consequences like; organizational confusion (who’s on first?), the adequate protection of its intellectual property, judiciously balancing and tweaking its costs/income/investment ratios, establishing a vision and staying focused on it…etc.

Essential to all of these (and all of the many variations in each model), is Leadership… in its finest form, the provision of vision and direction; instilling what is good, excising what isn’t, being disciplined to lead by example and becoming the glue that binds the tribe. There is no greater calling than this, it is paramount to all organizational structures and levels and it is timeless.

It isn’t leadership for the future or of the past, it lives in the “now”… it also isn’t defined by style…True Leadership just is that and can be effective in any type or form of structure because it isn’t bound by such rather, it manages and extracts value from each model and variation and fosters like actions in others.

In my opinion, the next decade will see organizations structure themselves in ever evolving variations of one of the three models noted here and paying closer attention to fostering, developing and evolving leadership from within… for if there is anything that is dying fast, it’s the concept of the charismatic “lone warrior” breezing-in from afar to save the day.

- conceptual excerpts first published by the author in Feb’10 on Leaders Cafe 2020

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About JP
"There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. Yet we may explore a bee forever and still never find a hive..." Kevin Kelly's - Out of Control

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