Someone gave me a copy of a delightful story called "Organizational Horseholding" http://www.sundance.ca/resources/documents/OrganizationalHorseHolding.April2006.pdf
It's a beautiful illustration of the types of sacred cows that organizations cling to and that can become real barriers to changing the design of the organization. The author of the piece, Chris Edgelow gives a couple of ideas on how to spot this type of sticking to an outdated practice: a) ask new hires to identify what they think might be a sacred cow b) watch for instances of trying to apply a solution that worked well in the past to a current problem.
Yesterday things went wrong (so no blog entry). My laptop was stolen. Following the fury and the frustration of the immediate event came some thinking about my personal responses to forced change: I could dwell on the event and curse myself for things like leaving on my desk, not password protecting the entry point, and so on. Or I could note that it could have been worse – at least I had backed up things, had insurance and so on. Or I could view it as an opportunity to change for the better the way I organize myself and my environment. Of course these options are not discrete and I am bouncing (iterating!?) from one to another and several along the route. It's a microcosm of the type of event that hits an organization that is going well and then has the workflow interrupted by something extraneous (although not totally unpredictable). I guess I had an adequate risk management strategy in place for computer loss but had not considered the risk that my front door (within an entry system building)could be smashed through.
Today two threads started to emerge. First someone mentioned to me John Maeda's book The Laws of Simplicity. (http://lawsofsimplicity.com/)
1 REDUCE The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
2 ORGANIZE Organization makes the system of many appear fewer.
3 TIME Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4 LEARN Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5 DIFFERENCES Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6 CONTEXT What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
7 EMOTION More emotions are better than less.
8 TRUST In simplicity we trust.
9 FAILURE Some things can never be made simple.
10 THE ONE Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
At first sight these seem to have relevance for organization design work so I'll get the book and explore further. I wonder how these fit with the Rotary Tests that I discovered yesterday?
Second I was teaching a class on organization structure and someone asked a question about the structure of holding companies vis a vis their operating companies. I was asked this question last week too. Maybe a topic people are getting interested in?
Today I read an article about a New River Valley entrepreneur, Bill Ellenbogen (www.nrvmagazine.com). He was asked what guides his business decisions and said it was the Rotary Four Way Test. "Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"
I'd not come across this test before but it seems an admirable one to bear in mind when doing organization design work – particularly with regard to communicating any projected changes in jobs (numbers and types).
I'm a week behind on my reading of the Economist so I've just caught up with the piece in the July 14th – 20th issue on the way BMW builds flexibility into its shift patterns 'for example extending shifts by 30 minutes, adding extra ones …' and making 'liberal use' of temporary workers. (See: Back above the bar again.
Both points suggest organization design questions. For example: What impact does adding in extra shifts have on HR systems (like payroll and productivity). How do managers make the decision to put in an extra shift and what are the processes for doing so?
Managing temporary (and contract) workers is another thorny design issue. The answers to such questions on whether they should be included in training events, subsidised meals or other things that payroll staff get all affect motivation, productivity, and performance (of both the temporary workers and the permanent workers).
My brother pointed out an improvement possibility in my email signature block. He noticed that the url pointing to my new book was very long (in fact broken over two lines) and that made it difficult to activate the link.
He suggested using a tiny url (see: http://tinyurl.com/) instead and then acted for me. So in tiny url my book, Guide to Organisation Design, is available
at Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/2r9m8m
at Amazon USA: http://tinyurl.com/3cw236
What I enjoyed about the suggestion was a) that my brother saw a process improvement idea and acted on it and b) that the orginator of the idea did similarly.
It's often difficult in organizations to successfully act on an idea.