Hierarchical structures allowed us to organize ourselves and experience phenomenal growth in the 20th century. Yet these structures are becoming risks for organizations that do not know how to transform them into more fluid entities that promote rapid innovation and mass collaboration.
An entrepreneur has an idea. He starts a business. Initially, everybody works together. But given the growing demand, new employees join the organization. New jobs are created. New management positions are added. A hierarchical and complex structure is taking shape. Gradually, without realizing it, direct contact with customers and employees are a thing of the past. Barriers arise between teams, divisions, business units, and hierarchical levels. It’s not me, it’s him! To be heard as a customer or employee becomes increasingly difficult. The majority of issues and opportunities identified usually end up getting lost in the maze of organizational structures. Many employees and customers eventually give up. Results: Threats are not avoided, opportunities are missed, and expensive problems that could have been solved become extremely costly.
In the context of turbulent, complex and rapidly changing times that organizations must face, can today’s organizations still afford to limit their contacts with customers and employees? It is time to consider the hierarchical structure not as a series of airtight silos but rather as a sponge or an open network where ideas and information flow quickly and openly.
Anticipating trends and opportunities and being able to translate them into innovative solutions provide now more than ever a competitive advantage for organizations that want to sustain their operations. The same is true for an organization’s ability to actively engage all of its employees and partners in the successful implementation of continuous change.
Maintaining heavy organizational structures and moving swiftly do not easily go together. What are organizations doing to keep up with the hyper-accelerated pace of the 21st century? They lighten their structures. They form and dissolve multi-disciplinary teams responsible for handling problems or quickly seizing opportunities. They use new collaboration platforms. They involve their customers in their thinking. They recruit and promote their managers for their skills as facilitators. They make collaboration a core value. How is your organization doing?