All of the modern business organizations of today share a common template, in other words a common operating system. Wherever you go in the world, whichever organization you see, you will come across with similar practices of management and organizing.
This operating system was born in 19th century, at the beginning of the industrial period. And it has brought extraordinary advances to humanity in the last 2 centuries. When compared with the idiosyncratic and disorderly organizational system of the previous era, today’s modern organizational system was a blessing. It turbo charged productivity, reliability and stability by standardization, formalization and specialization. It also enabled organizations to be bigger by bureaucratic control and coordination mechanisms. None of the advances in our life could have been possible without it. However, these benefits came at a price.
This operating system has 3 inherent major defects:
- It is inertial. In modern organizations, change tends to be incremental. Big change is very difficult and traumatic when happens. As a result, they can not be responsive to change.
- It makes work life inhumane: As the Dilbert cartoons express in an amplified way, the work life in the modern organizations has been a miserable and pointless activity for many.
- It is ill-purposed: It contributed on a massive scale to depleting natural resources and destroying ecosystems. Maximizing shareholder value has always been the primary concern, and all the rest has been secondary.
Having acknowledged inherent problems of this operating system, management world has deployed some interventions to finetune it and ease the pain. Hierarchies were flattened. Empowerment and motivation programs have been introduced. Environmental sustainability and social responsibility initiatives have been launched. Perhaps they proved useful a little; but the defects still survive and are in action.
Is it possible to change this operating model? Can organizations be
- ambidextreous (both big and fast, reliable and flexible, efficient and entrepreneurial)
- humanistic (in which the work life is more meaningful and pleasant so that the people put more of their potential out)
- socio-ecological (genuinely care their social and ecological impact)?
When the evolution of humanity is analyzed, it can easily be observed that we have gone through several developmental stages. At each stage, we made a leap in our abilities – not only technically but also cognitively and socially. Every time humanity has shifted to a new stage, it has built new social paradigms and in parallel has invented new ways to organize and collaborate.
The incumbent operating system of the organizations is a product of an obsolete stage. It is a mashup of military command system of pre-industrial period and mechanistic control system of industrial period. Since its invention in the 19th century, much has changed. People, technology, economic and environmental conditions all have changed. Yet the organizational system remained the same.
The time to change it has come!
Return to OrgAnarchist section for further reading.
If you would like to check some early responses to this call, here is a mini list: