Is the future of organizations individual disruption?

June was packed with interesting and inspiring conversations. Social Business Forum 2012, Switch Conference and Social Now provided the venues for meeting for the first time, or encountering again, some very smart folks. Themes range from social business, the future of organizations and work to life, goals, books, communities and challenges.

In many cases, the art of conversations was accompanied by the art of the table, so as the stomach was being satisfied the soul was also nurtured.

In one of those interactions the topic of organizational & management change came to light. We agreed that the way our organizations work and the role of leadership & management needs to change, or to be hacked in the terminology of the Management Mix initiative led by Gary Hamel. But one of us, having met with a lot of silent resistance from middle and top management of many companies (silent in the sense that their talk at meetings and their Powerpoint speak one thing but their actions, or worst their non-actions, speak a very different thing and thus silently mine any change initiative), raised an uncomfortable but important question: could our organizations really ever develop into being more open, transparent, connected, human & socially responsible? Could we, the change agents deeply seeking to drive transformation in our organizations, really succeed into setting the foundations of a new sort of enterprise?

In some cases, I hope, yes we will be able to transform our existing organizations into entities fit for the uncertainties of the Big Shift . In other cases, I’m afraid, no. Resistance and preserving of the status quo will just prevail and radical transformation will not be possible.

But amidst the rather glooming mood settling in at the table while we exchanged views about this, I offered a different perspective: what if what we are doing is in fact showing people (our colleagues, our friends, our customers, our partners) that there is a better way to work, to build businesses with a purpose & to make a difference through their work? What if the bigger impact is not so much in the abstract concept of organizations but in the atom unit of each individual?

Maybe then, even if we can’t transform some of those organizations, we will succeed in inspiring people that will set out to build the new ventures that the World really needs. And I’ve seen this happen recently with some friends… In this case I’m sure the work of all intrapreneurs, management hackers, purpose-driven consultants & evangelists out there would not have been in vain!


3 thoughts on “Is the future of organizations individual disruption?

  1. All organizations have a DNA. Strangely enough some of the most innovative enterprises are the ones that once grown out of proportion will struggle more with change. I have a customer in Poland that is exactly an example of that although they operate in 17 eastern European countries, and their execs are all under 35. They have their own chaotic ways of doing things, and after a disproportional growth, they started to struggle internally. Business grew, but they kept their informal way of doing things. They kept their DNA. They are all very bright, young and creative, but they know nothing about sustainable growth and management. So they called in an Enterprise Architect. I went there, and stood in awe at the way they hang on to their “freestyle” management. Looks cool from the outside, but it’s doomed to fail on the inside. Clearly it’s a case of maturity, but just thought I should give my testimony on the flipped side of the coin.

  2. Hi Ana, these great thoughts of yours resonated deeply with me. You describe a situation I’m facing too, sometimes to my utter frustration.

    When reading your blog entry, I suddenly pondered about one question: Could we be expecting the wrong (conventional) process for radical transformation? What we plan to achieve will not only disrupt the rules of the game, but also disturb the existing power structures. Maybe some of the executives (managers, not leaders) realize that they have nothing to gain from this transformation.

    How about accepting the silent resistance as the most decent reaction that makes sense for them – and focus on those colleagues, leaders, etc. who want to pursue the better way of working? I wholeheartedly support your idea on individual disruption. If this goes viral, it will spread and our work will not be in vain. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment Cordelia! Let’s hope individual disruption will help create better businesses in the (near or more distant) future 🙂

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