Rewriting the organisation rulebook

I’m going to shift gears for this post. Instead of the individual and team view, I will look at work from the 30000-foot perspective – seeing what’s happening in the whole organisation. Not hard for me since that’s my day job as a company GM.

So here are the 8 org. trends the Corporate Rebels think we are moving towards:

Here are my thoughts on each trend:

  1. Profit gives way to purpose and values. I don’t think profit will ever take a back seat. It’s a driving force for our capitalist society after all. But making a profit at the cost of community goodwill will become a big no-no in the near future. We can already see that with some activist investors like pension funds.
  2. Hierarchy gives way to networks of teams. I run a smaller org with a network of teams, but I can tell you that an official hierarchy still exists in terms of rank and seniority. But teams must form and morph as needed to serve a purpose, not solely as headcount vanity for people in power.
  3. Directive leadership gives way to supportive leadership. Do as you’re told will remain an issue as long as the concept of differential power exists. And because we’re human, it will. I think we need to balance it with tools that allow for supportive leadership. Let’s not skew too far in either direction.
  4. Plan & predict gives way to experiment & adapt. Yes, some of today’s most successful companies are those that experiment & adapt in frontier markets. But they’re a handful. The rest of us need to still plan for how we’re going to achieve success in dull, predictable markets. We can experiment a little along the way.
  5. Rules & control gives way to freedom & trust. This brings up the age-old concern of “without rules, everything descends into chaos”. People will need increasing freedom to act fast – the world is moving exponentially faster than even 10 years ago. But they will need guidelines and at times rules to keep actions ethical and guided towards the purpose.
  6. Centralised authority to distributed decisionmaking. Yes, yes and yes! The number of times I’ve wondered why I need to chime in on a decision. But then again, some wide impact decisions need top brass OKs. The key is getting clarity and logical sense behind the criticality, urgency and org impact of decisions.
  7. Secrecy gives way to radical transparency. I think both secrecy and transparency have a place in healthy organisations. Some critical and wide-impact decisions need to be a secret until they’re fully planned out. Likewise, people need to stop hiding day-to-day work matters just for the sake of keeping a one-up on others.
  8. Job descriptions give way to talent & mastery. Yes, we will increasingly rely on exceptional talents, but there’s only a finite supply of that to go around. For the rest of us, we will need some form of boundary set around our job to do it with diligence. Job descriptions can be part of that boundary-setting equation.

I applaud the narrative that this image sparks. That we need to relook at those industries where orgs are single-minded on profit before all else that’s good on earth.

It’s also becoming increasingly pointless to hire people to follow 20-30 year old rules, do monotonous tasks and play office politics. That might’ve worked in the 80s and 90s, but that thinking has maxed out its productive potential.

With more technology and know-how improving productivity, I can see that people need to change what and how they do things.

Corporate Rebels have been gathering steam in a few circles. I’ve paste an image from their site (educational purposes only) to highlight the shift these circles are driving. From my observation, these circles are at the frontier of driving organisational change.

I remember my days of trolling similar-looking circles around 2005-2010. They talked about then-abstract concepts like “digital everything”, agile, cloud, IoT, SoLoMo (social, location, mobile).

We now take their efforts for granted on a daily basis – paperless workflows in the office to turning off the lights using Wifi to calling a late-night Uber.

But I’m no longer interested in the digital future the way I used to be. We are already (pretty much) living it – as I had envisioned it 15 years ago. AI and all that – not my jam.

What seems like the next frontier is this: wholesale org. change based on sustainability principles… and making better use of all this tech that surrounds us.