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Organizing for the Future: A focus on three outcomes

Companies embarking on a journey to organize for the future will need to address the organization as a dynamic system in which all elements affect and reinforce each other.
Elizabeth Mygatt

Advises clients across a variety of sectors on topics regarding organizational transformation with expertise in organizational design, governance and decision rights, leadership, and change management

Richard Steele

Designs and delivers purpose-driven transformation programs and is an expert in culture change, organizational agility, and using design-thinking to remake the employee experience and drive improved performance and organizational health

In a recent post, we framed the moment we are living in as a first true information revolution – one driven by more connection, lower transaction costs, unprecedented automation, and demographic shifts.

This paradigm shift radically changes the business agenda for the winners of the previous industrial revolutions. Take car manufacturers, for example: in the past five years, their agenda has gone from “Where should we locate plants?” to “How do we build electric vehicles?” to “How can we compete against mobility platforms?” and even “What’s our role in the autonomous vehicle ecosystem?”

What we’re seeing emerge is a “winner takes all” economy, in which the winners are bold experimenters. The need to rethink the organization has been amplified by the speed and aggressiveness of customer-focused e-commerce innovators that use technology to scale.

Leading companies are reimagining the basic tenets of organization. Emerging models are creative, adaptable, and anti-fragile. Corporate purpose fuels bold business moves. “Labor” becomes “talent.” Hierarchies and matrixes become networks of teams. Competitors become ecosystem collaborators. And companies become more human: inspiring, enabling collaboration, and creating experiences that are simple, meaningful, and enjoyable.

We see leaders organizing for the future by addressing the most pressing questions.

Who are we? Do we have a compelling, standout identity that attracts and inspires people—employees, investors, clients, and partners? Leading organizations convey the reason for their existence by embracing three imperatives:

    1. Define a resonant purpose that embodies the organization’s unique role in the world and aligns the entire enterprise with shared meaning.

    2. Sharpen your value agenda, the list of priorities that can double or triple the value you create.

    3. Create a special culture defined by a unique set of practices, rituals, symbols, and experiences.

How do we operate? Do we have a nimble, frictionless operating model that fosters simplicity and speed? Leading organizations build this operating model by adopting the next three imperatives:

    4. Radically flatten your structure to allow the organization to operate as a network of empowered, dynamic teams.

    5. Turbocharge decision making to improve both the quality and velocity of decisions.

    6. Treat talent as the scarcer capital by creating a special employee experience, expanding people’s capacity, and allowing people to “be human.”

How do we grow? Are we building for scale to get smarter and more innovative, to iterate more rapidly, and to be able to tap into resources and networks beyond the bounds of the organization? Leading operations pursue scale by addressing the last three imperatives:

    7. Take an ecosystem view, in which communities create value together and partners share data, code, and skills.

    8. Build a data-rich technology platform to generate insight into what works, embed automation on a grand scale, and allow your people to focus on what only they as humans can do.

    9. Accelerate learning as an organization to enable employees to access, create, and share innovation, capabilities, and know-how in real time and on demand.

These nine imperatives are strongly connected. Interventions in one imperative can have a profound impact on the others; for example, our purpose shapes the priorities of our value agenda. Companies embarking on their journey to organize for the future will need to address the organization as a dynamic system in which all elements affect and reinforce each other.

In light of these imperatives, executives have a choice: continue with the status quo—if there even is such a thing in the next normal—or reimagine their organizations to build more creative, adaptable, and human systems.

This post is the second in a series. Over the coming weeks, other posts will explore the imperatives above and take a closer look at how organizations are behaving in radical new ways.

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This blog post is part of a series on Organizing for the Future, which explores a set of new principles such as anti-fragility and experimentation that are becoming increasingly critical for today’s organizations as they build more creative, adaptable, and human systems.

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