Organisation design and millennials

‘In order to keep the Millennial generation analytically meaningful, and to begin looking at what might be unique about the next cohort, Pew Research Center decided [in 2018] to use 1996 as the last birth year for Millennials for our future work. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation.’  25 – 40 now.

I looked up the birth years of Millennials when I was invited to be interviewed for a book that is being written.  The intent behind the book is to share a collection of strategies that will help the next wave of Millennial leaders find their next (or first) executive role.  In my case, the authors were particularly interested in helping Millennials, applying for an executive role, think about, and answer interview questions on their approaches to organisation design.   

Preparing for the interview, initially I wondered what the cultural boundaries are of ‘Millennialism’ i.e. is it a US/UK/Europe predominant label or is it global and are their common characteristics across nationalities, ethnicities, language, etc?

I don’t know the answer but the Deloitte 2021 Global Survey of Millennials and Gen  Z ‘solicited the views of 14,655 millennials and 8,273 Gen Zs from 45 countries across North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific’, and aggregated them into a single report, so I took that as a start-point.

It’s worth reading. The conclusion states.  ‘Emerging from one of the most difficult years of their lives, millennials and Gen Zs are more downbeat that at any time during the 10 years they’ve been surveyed … They’re tired of waiting for change to happen and are taking action to hold others accountable. But they understand their actions as individuals can do only so much to reverse climate change, create pay and wealth equality, and end racism and bigotry. They want organizations to work together—governments, educational systems, and business—to drive change on a much broader scale. … they want to work for companies with a purpose beyond profit—companies that share their values—and in ones where they feel empowered to make a difference.’

To my mind this argues for the millennials seeking executive roles to really question and probe whether they would have the power to change the organisation’s design, if it did not meet those sorts of aspirations (and whether they would want to work for an organisation that doesn’t share those aspirations).   

 But for the moment stick with the idea that it is the millennials being asked questions by the interview panel.  Below, I’ve briefly answered the list of interview questions the book people sent me, with the comment, ‘We likely won’t ask you these questions directly in order to maintain the spontaneous nature and energy of the interview authentic. We’re sharing these to help jog your memory and guide the discussion so we can keep the “spirit” of helping millennial leaders consistent.’   (It’ll be interesting to see the write-up/interpretation of the actual interview which was a lot more free-flowing than the q & a here). 

Why is org design important for people in executive roles? Tom Peter’s view is that “Design is so critical, it should be on the agenda of every meeting in every single department”  (Unfortunately, I can’t find the original source of this – if anyone knows it please let me know, maybe it was in the book In Search of Excellence) and I agree. Why?  Because good design translates an organisation’s purpose, strategy, and business model into execution, delivery and high performance.  Think of the bike race analogy – every element of winning a race is carefully designed to achieve that purpose.  (See the HBR article on this).

What is the difference between org chart and org structure? I’ve written several blogs on organisation charts and organisational structures.  For example, Talking about organisation charts, and What I talk about when I talk about structure . The chart and the structure are very different things. 

What is considered a bad org structure vs a good org structure?  I don’t know that there is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Some organisational structures (not charts) are better than others for a specific context and a specific organisation.  I have a handout on questions to ask about structure and also a blog on the topic, Questions to ask about structures,  which helps with some assessment. 

How do millennials answer and use the “Tell me about how was [XYZ] organization structured?” to their advantage in an interview?  This could only be answered well if the millennial was asked to talk about an organisation in their experience.  It’s a good question to have a prepared answer for.  There are thousands of case studies looking at organisations and the way they are designed.  Look for example at Business Case Studies  or Ivey Publishing . Reading through some of these would give the applicant ideas on how to frame an answer.    

How should millennials answer situational questions like “How would you structure our organization if you were to take this role?”   Assuming the millennial being questioned thinks the same way as those in the Deloitte survey, then they can pick up on aspects of the human centred organisation that Emanuele Quintarelli discusses in his organisation design work. Look too at the Intersection Group and Cocoon Pro .

What are some before and after case study stories of millennials who got org design wrong and what happened after it was turned around?   Words like ‘wrong’ are judger rather than learner centric.  A millennial could propose that ‘wrong’ could be framed as a learning event – look at the helpful resources on fail forward.  Stripe is an interesting case study of an organisation whose founders,  Patrick and John Collison are millennials, (born 1988 and 1990) appear to have this experimental, curious mindset that frames setbacks or failures not as ‘wrong’ but something to adjust/learn from.  Listen to an excellent podcast with Patrick, the CEO.  

What hacks, strategies, frameworks or words of wisdom would help aspiring executives in answering organisation design questions?   A person who can give examples of applying/not applying the following skills to any organisation design work they have led themselves or been involved in, be equipped with a basis for design awareness:

looking at the whole picture;

recognising that patterns change;

seeing that feedback loops exist, and that some nodes are more powerful than others;

acknowledging that different perspectives give different insights;

knowing that cause and effect can be delayed and chaotic, and may not appear related;

exploring the short-term, long-term and unintended consequences of action.

What is your 80/20 list for demonstrating organisation design experience/expertise.  It’s mostly about systems and people’s behaviours and interactions in systems.  I advise people to take a systems programme for example Systems Thinking in Practice

How would you answer the questions above?  Let me know.