Microstructures within organisations

I’ve had my eyes glued onto papers about organisation design for the last few days. One of the concepts that sprung out to me was that of microstructures. Professor Phanish Puranam of INSEAD coined this term.

Microstructures are the building blocks of organisations. I’d imagine he’s referring to the teams, committees and collectives of human beings that form towards a specific purpose. They take guidance from and guides the organisation’s purpose.

How can you model a microstructure? I’d imagine it could be as simple as:

  • A full view of the team and activities it undertakes
  • Seeing the individuals who are in that team and the activities they’re responsible for

Building out these microstructures, you could then view them in overall workgroups and business units, to gauge the interactions necessary to create value. And keep going up until you’ve got a full view of the organisation’s movements.

What benefit could a practical manager get from this? Seeing the building blocks that form an organisation?

Imagine if you could track the evolution of these microstructures, the performance data gathered within, how they morph and contribute to overall structural integrity… then today’s machine-based modelling tech could tell you how to optimise it?

Perhaps the greatest human-centred benefit is driving change more effectively. They could do a before/after model of the individual and team activities impacted by process, technology or other change.

A visual approach to a process otherwise filled with mystery and uncertainty.