The complexity at the base of new organizational paradigms
The frontiers of sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, cybernetics, social sciences and philosophy are converging as never before, building a body of knowledge and research that are called the theory of complexity.
A final and complete systemizing and experimentation are still far in the future, but visions and very interesting concrete opportunities for organizations are emerging.
Companies in particular, still solidly anchored to outdated models, have much to learn from these advances, precursors of new organizational paradigms which can produce incredible leaps in quality and productivity.
It is not easy to change a paradigm that for two centuries has structured our way of thinking and our organizational practices. In the same way, it is not easy to completely understand a company’s double nature, “mechanical” and “thinking” and the need to use organizational stimuli in opposite directions.
The double nature of the organization allows, for example, that both rigid and rigorous “algorithmic” procedures and flexible guidelines make sense. Equally one can structure activities of the “mechanical” type by function and structure “thinking” and evolutive activities by systems. In other words, “differentiate” and “integrate”.
Paradoxically it is precisely our recognizing that organizations are complex, that allows us to maximize their simplification and narrow our focus!
Normally organizations handle the “contradictions” of complexity by swinging back and forth between opposites, with long and costly restructurings. By applying complexity principles we can instead carry out deep but nonintrusive changes, phased in progressively following a learning curve while using mostly internal energy.
The gradual experimentation of the paradigms of complexity, accompanied by exercises of reflection and awareness, insure that they become progressively rooted in the culture and in company practices and the “soft” realization of significant improvements in productivity and motivation.
The challenge of complexity
- Place equal attention on the structures and the processes to set up agencies, allocate roles, manage operative mechanisms and select personnel;
- Make individual roles dynamic so that they can grow systematically through learning without taking away stability and people’s reference points;
- Satisfy the need to be very centralized, i.e. to have everything under control, and at the same time being very decentralized, that is giving maximum responsibility to the more operative levels;
- Have people capable of carrying out activities in their own environment, giving more sense to their work and thus gaining in efficiency and motivation and making it so that each can become a specialist in resolving difficult problems;
- Place people in the center and grow groups capable of doing much more than the sum of the individuals that make them up;
- Multiply the ability to cooperate without losing the advantages of “valid competition” among individuals;
- Preserve all the good that has been built in the past and at the same time produce a large amount of innovation, business, products and services, methods and instruments and ways of functioning;
- Make everyone responsible for something individual and at the same time co-responsible for a much wider environment so that all problems and all alternatives for solutions are always objects of attention and that identity within the organization is strong;
- Guarantee that every long term solution is accompanied by a program of what is to be changed today and, on the other hand, that every immediate solution is supported by a careful analysis of what is the desirable long-term goal;
- Join maximum attention to everything that happens locally with a vision that embraces and deepens systematically the company’s global organization;
- Make incompetence a “driver” for motivation and improvement.
Senior Scientist, Head of Research
Italy | Milan
Senior Scientist – Head of Research, Associate Partner of MAYS International. Contract professor at the University of Padua, for Organization, Innovation and Project Management. He has worked in corporations in several sectors in various functions and roles. He was CEO of Maffei Ambiente SpA. a...Read more
Complexity cannot be managed with standardized solutions: it requires an attentive personalization, which can only be the result of dynamic “co-planning”.
If we apply neuroscience metaphors to the organization, the basic activity consists in activating or reactivating the lost or lacking “synapses” among all the parts and all the levels, integrating gradually the “top-down” with the “bottom-up”, forming and assisting the “right” groups, following indications provided by a constantly updated proprietary methodology.
The growth of awareness, analogously to what occurs on the human dimensions in single individuals, involves all an organization’s variables, but the change, differently from a traditional reorganization, takes place noninvasively with the involvement and the gradual mobilization of all the people, maximizing and focusing everyone’s contribution and creating much more with much less. Here are the focal and characterizing points:
Laboratory with organizational innovation, as the current mode, to improve and evolve.
Training on complexity and on an awareness of the necessity of new paradigms.
Sharing of reflections and experimenting on the alternation of structuring and de-structuring, order and chaos, and the reinvention of a company “research” function that manages to involve and furnish the objectives of increased knowledge and competence to all personnel.
The focalization, integration and simplification of the processes and structures that are easily, naturally and continuously set up on all levels.
The elaboration of a strategic model of competences and motivation.
The formation of adaptive inter-functional groups at the base of the organization.
The transformation of static individual roles into dynamic roles within more stable roles “inside groups”.
The introduction of “system” structures, on both a high level and at the base of the organization.
The introduction of essential innovative operative mechanisms: selection, mobility, objectives and assessment.
The factory of the future: the end of the division between blue- and white-collar workers.
A new approach to IT systems and their integration.
Measuring an organization’s energy level.
The introduction as necessary of proprietary instruments to help in resolving conflicts.
The management of future shareholders and an “external network” that enhances the identity and social contribution and brings effectiveness and efficiency.
The creation of a shared innovative and interiorized model for change and the relative program.