Most people would agree that many organizations today are too stiff, too slow and too disconnected to do well in the complex world we live in now.
Many large organizations have placed their bet on a new technology platform that will connect all their people’s work. Some think that real change can only come from the bottom up. Many feel that any form of hierarchy is outdated. Some talk about culture but are not clear about what this means.
Few are making any progress. So what is the better way to go?
Great discussion. We are out of balance dealing with complex problems because authoritarian hierarchies –so important for 20th century processes – are seen as the only way to get things done. Maybe for simply processes but not the complex ones facing us.
Distributed democratic approaches using social networks are all the rage. For the first time in 10,000 years we have major tools that leverage these inherent activities of humanity’s culture. They can now overpower hierarchies especially when examining complex processes.
But, they alone cannot solve what we face. Disctibuted democracy is great at cranking the DIKW cycle to get to knowledge. The problem arises because they often want to keep turning the cycle than actually take an action.
They can spend too much time talking and not enough time doing. I’ve written about the need for a Synthetic Organization, one that is leader-full bit leaderless.
We need some aspects of hierarchy to get things done. It is finding the right balance, designing feedback to permit leader-full approaches to survive while preventing the accretion of power that hierarchies can produce.
I have worked at organizations that found the right balance. We just did not have a firm understanding of why it worked.
Now we are getting much closer to defining how to create the balance between the two key aspects of human social interaction – authoritarian hierarchy and distrubuted democracy.
The groups that accomplish this will be the ones that truly helpus solve complex problems.