Connecting everywhere and all the time, and its impact on structure in markets and organizations – 2: finding the right organizational complexity balance
About a week ago I posted a first installment of what I have planned to be a short series on organizational and structural complexity. I began there looking at the sometimes competing needs and pressures that would add to organizational complexity, and also the pressures and forces that would lead to organizational flatness and simplicity.
• An effective organization finds the right balance point for itself between structure and simplicity that will best help it address the needs of its marketplace. And I stress as a very important point, finding the right level and balance of structure should be driven by marketplace effectiveness.
• And with this in mind, organizational structure and complexity needs to be reviewed as a component of strategic planning, and on an ongoing basis, as needs and requirements can and will change.
I have already touched on a sampling of reasons why an organization would become either more structurally complex or simpler in Part 1 and add one more example here to round that out.
Nonprofits as a category face severe structural constraints on their finances where very large percentages of incoming revenue are required to be directed towards fulfillment of mission if they are to retain nonprofit status – and with a minimum left over for operating expenses, marketing and other organizational requirements. That means pressure is very high to limit payroll to an essential minimum, and everyone has to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of jobs that in a less restricted organization would perhaps be distributed to more employees.
• This can and does frequently call for greater organizational openness if these employees are to effectively complete their wider ranges of tasks. The more an average employee is hands-on responsible for and the wider range of task types they are responsible for, the wider the range of directly interested and involved stakeholders they have to work with and meet the needs of – and effectively connect with.
• This can in effect force managers to be more directly and even hands-on involved if they are to be effectively involved in managing and supervising members of their teams as there are more details they need to be aware of from each of them, and both for what they are doing and in how their stakeholders are responding.
• And that can lead to frustration and for both managers and team members. Managers can find themselves so buried in the details they can never really step back to consider the bigger picture and take a more strategic approach. I have definitely seen this for more senior managers. Remember, in this type of system, those managers have to wear multiple hats too.
• People who report to these managers can feel that their supervisors are looking over their shoulders and not letting them just do their assigned tasks where they should be planning out how they do them – while simultaneously feeling frustrated that the work they do does not effectively, strategically connect together to help them meet their larger job requirements. Or they can feel frustrated that their supervisors are not asking for enough details, or at least for the right ones to really understand their needs and what they are actually accomplishing.
How do you find the right balance of structural and organizational complexity, and openness and flatness? How do you know when your organizational systems are drifting off course? I am going to specifically address those two questions in part 3 of this series.
You can find this series and related postings in Business Strategy and Operations, and also in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.