The 21st Century Organization

Are you ready for the organization of the future?

Today's big companies do very little to enhance the productivity of their professionals. In fact, their vertically oriented organizational structures, retrofitted with ad hoc and matrix overlays, nearly always make professional work more complex and inefficient. These vertical structures — relics of the industrial age — are singularly ill suited to the professional work process. Professionals cooperate horizontally with one another throughout a company, yet vertical structures force such men and women to search across poorly connected organizational silos to find knowledge and collaborators and to gain their cooperation once they have been found.

Worse yet, matrix structures, designed to accommodate the "secondary" management axes that cut across vertical silos, frequently burden professionals with two bosses — one responsible for the sales force, say, and another for a product line. Professionals seeking to collaborate thus need to go up the organization before they can go across it. Effective collaboration often takes place only when the would-be collaborators enlist hierarchical line managers to resolve conflicts between competing organizational silos. Much time is lost reconciling divergent agendas and finding common solutions.

The future is in self organizing, dynamic, flexible organizations. Or, as some have said, using market based principles internally. Why aren't very many companies moving in that direction? Because there are too many control freaks out there. Who wants to be responsible for the results of a group without being allowed to micromanage the group? I'll tell you who – a manager that spends time training staff and setting clear expectations. Those managers have better things to focus on than handholding (or handcuffing) their subordinates.

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Corporations of the future will be built on trust, authenticity, and empowerment – not control and micromanagement.