I took a lot of heat for my last two blogs: “Death of the Manager: The coming extinction.” and “Three Reasons your Org Chart is Worthless”. I figure I must be on the right track if so many “old school” leaders call me crazy. Just when I could begin to take it personal, I realized I am not barking up the wrong tree. More than ever, a great deal of attention is given in the press to the manager-less, leader-less, agile, flat, flexible, Open Organization style of organization structure. Whatever you wish to call it, the bottom line is that the landscape of organization structure is changing. For some the new world order comes in the form of consolidation of power. I, on the other hand see a dissemination of power coming. The days of top-down, formal, rigid structures are numbered. Maybe not for all, but for many, the era of Meritocracy is arriving on track number 3. Webster’s defines a meritocracy as a group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth. My thesis for some time has been that the people doing the work know better how to do their jobs than the leaders demanding the work from their employees. When we begin to listen to our employees, a new dynamic enters. Structures are weakened and human capital is strengthened through empowerment. The argument against self-managed, manager-less organizations is rooted in the false assumption of chaos. In fact, my research shows that an Open Organization is not only more flexible but stronger than its more rigid hierarchical counterpart. If we were using terms of physics – the tensile strength of an Open Organization is much better than a rigid top-down organization design. Open Organizations are built on the platform of First Principles and a simple but strong set of rules better known as a Governance. An Open Organization Governance outlines how decisions are made within the community. It also expresses how things are done and by whom. By arguing for a Governance, we are not necessarily implying some sort of hierarchy or procedure, but more the expression of sharing ideas, responsibilities and decisions. In the case of an Open Organization or meritocracy, members are rewarded based on their own intrinsic motivators. Some are rewarded by completing something cool and some by being part of something bigger than themselves. Governance should not be a list of restrictions and don’ts insomuch as it is a methodology for flow and control of information within and sometimes outside of the organization. An Open Organization removes silos or divisions of business and creates one merged mass of an organization. A structure in which everyone makes decisions and all participate in the direction of the organization. An Open Organization creates stakeholders of all members of the organization. I find humor in those who believe that there is no such thing as a manger-less organization. Those who doubt the validity of a manager-less organization miss the key attributes of Open. Open does not equal chaos. Open does equal efficiencies, happiness, creativity, flexibility, and a higher degree of competitiveness. I would ask this question, why should only tech firms benefit from the power of Openness? It is there for taking… but, it requires a leader to enter into a place of vulnerability. Once we can get beyond the uneasy feelings, we realize that the idea of Open means that we have more capacity and a great deal of pressure off our shoulders as leaders. Going Open requires us to focus on the happiness of the workforce before the happiness of the shareholders. It requires a change of mindset. The greatest distance we must travel is those 6 inches between our ears. I say, make the decision and jump in, the water is fine! No! The water is AWESOME!
Dr. Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.