59 theses on the organization of the future present

October 21st, 2017. Exactly 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. In Luther’s days, the church was ripe for change. So is management theory today, says CFO Services director Alexander Van Caeneghem: ripe for Reformation.

By posting 59 theses on our digital wall, CFO Services offers some coordinates for the transition to future-fit organizations. These coordinates are based on our experience. We believe they will be critical success factors, with giving precedence to people as probably the most critical factor.

Some of the theses might be provocative. Others might seem self-evident. Still others could be conversation starters. All of them are hypotheses: propositions that could help us intensify the debate on the future of work, the future of organizations, the future of people.

Keywords for the debate are putting people first, autonomy, trust, humanization, network, platform, process, roles, context and distributed authority. No disruption. Distribution of authority. No departments. Process.

We also published an accompanying piece, where Alexander Van Caeneghem explains the specific context and history of the 59 theses, 1517-2017: Revisiting Luther’s nailing.

59 theses on the organization of the future present

  1. People who love what they do are more productive and creative. They go home happier and have happier families.
  2. Some people want to be the entrepreneurs of their talent and career. This specific type of people is Me inc.® - me incorporated.
  3. No organization works without people. In fact: people are pivotal to organizations.
  4. A sustainable organization shifts the focus from profit to people.
  5. A sustainable organization puts employees first and customers second.
  6. An organization needs a purpose, not just a goal or ambition. The fundamental question is: why do we do what we do, and not rather something else?
  7. The workplace needs to be reinvented. The way we work needs to be reinvented. Work itself needs to be reinvented.
  8. Forget about disrupted, let’s talk about distributed.
  9. Work can be fun. Work can create happiness. Work can make life meaningful. Work can be a privilege.
  10. Organizations where people are constantly being challenged by more senior people have largely disappeared. These organizations provided an excellent context for growth, though, as they offered space, experience and context.
  11. Space and autonomy allow for Selbstbestimmung.
  12. The need to be connected to other people is deeply human.
  13. The network stretches beyond the boundaries of the organization. The network is everywhere.
  14. The network is not necessarily the hegelian end of organizational history.
  15. The organization of the future is, by definition, a sustainable organization.
  16. If organizations want to grow sustainably, they can only grow through the growth of their people.
  17. ‘Furthering people for better performance’ is an excellent organizational purpose. Its driving force is trust and space.
  18. Blueprints almost never work, even in organizational development.
  19. Nobody is a resource. Nobody is an asset. Nobody is a social liability.
  20. The old dichotomy of carrot and stick is obsolete. The most powerful motivation is intrinsic. Economies of Motivation® have more impact than economies of scale.
  21. Removing dissatisfaction (by total reward, work-life balance, location, etc.) is the default setting, not a competitive advantage.
  22. Furthering people constitutes a win-win-win: people grow faster and increase their performance, the organization benefits and grows, and customers reap the rewards.
  23. Old organizations try to eliminate the direct competition between people through a hierarchical structure, detailed functional descriptions and procedures.
  24. Old organizations are doomed to disappear, due to global changes in labor and capital production factors and new generations entering the workforce.
  25. Context is everything.
  26. Leadership and management should make it easier for people to work, not harder.
  27. Control is not trust. It all starts with trust.
  28. If people are placed in cages, they either become passive or aggressive. Their performance decreases, or they start playing political games.
  29. Trust is indispensable for sustainable connections between people.
  30. Shift happens. Shift is real. Shift is here to stay.
  31. Different organizational philosophies exist, with a more or less totalitarian claim on organizational reality.
  32. A good operational model relies on different existing and new organizational philosophies, but customizes through a new combination and own rules.
  33. A promising form of future present organization for many organizations, especially in the knowledge economy, is the flat and flexible knowledge sharing network.
  34. The best way to organize co-creation and collaboration is a network.
  35. A flat and flexible knowledge sharing network allows people to discover and develop their skills, find space to think and act, accelerate their career, share knowledge and move around freely in line with their talents and ambitions.
  36. Reciprocity is an essential principle in a network structure: people who feed the network, will receive as well, but it is mostly unclear when, what and from whom.
  37. A flat and flexible knowledge sharing network allows for distributed responsibilities and authority to give space to everyone involved.
  38. Technology should support people and work, not alienate people from their work.
  39. One cannot improve what one does not know.
  40. The best way to bring transparency in an organization is to get a full view on its processes.
  41. Most things can be a process.
  42. We need processes, not departments. Processes cut through departments. Processes are superior to departments.
  43. People and organizations boast different levels of process maturity. A higher process maturity level positively influences change readiness and engagement, also structurally reducing stress levels in people.
  44. Platforms are a unique approach in a world where most models are piping.
  45. The key benefits of platforms are value innovation, peer-to-peer advocacy, better fit solutions, and upscale potential.
  46. The platform is the infrastructure that facilitates the network. Platforms cater for docking and expansion. Platforms fit with the human measure.
  47. Almost nobody ever really fits a function description.
  48. Functions can be deconstructed into roles, and roles into tasks. Tasks and roles can bottom-up be re-constructed into job crafted functions, based on the trinity can/want/need.
  49. Contemporary organizations remove power from the management hierarchy and distribute it across roles.
  50. Everything an organization does, is produced by different roles.
  51. On a role level, beyond departments, processes connect people in the value chain.
  52. Through their transversal and flexible nature, and due to the energy, sustainability, efficiency and ownership they provide, roles provide opportunities for building cross-connections in a network organization and value chain.
  53. To further people for better performance, roles should be conceived to contain a reflection mode, giving people the ability to permanently reflect on the quality of their work and actions.
  54. Networks require a different leadership paradigm. If power is vested in a function in a management hierarchy, authority rather is a peer-to-peer concept, to be acquired through leadership by example.
  55. Leadership by example is not directive, but convincing and coaching.
  56. As opposed to a matrix organization, a network does not apply a double reporting line or power hierarchy, but connects people.
  57. Once people are connected through roles, the network facilitates knowledge sharing and the collective cognitive intelligence of the organization skyrockets.
  58. Network organizations that are grounded in a solid process infrastructure can bring processes and process owners to live. Progressively, the dynamics of feedback-ideas-process change enters, ad aeternum.
  59. There is no me without we.
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Alexander Van Caeneghem Blue Chip Boutique Leader
CFO Services
+32 2 712 08 68