Organizational flux – is this the new “normal”?

| By TMA World


It’s a familiar story: technology and other disruptive forces have greatly accelerated the pace of change. 
As a consequence, organizations have been forced to rethink their rigid hierarchical structures and find new ways to react and adapt quickly to changes in the market. 

Fundamentally, organizations are about groups and linkages.  Which groups – like R&D, Manufacturing, and HR – does the organization need to conduct its business, and what linkages within and between groups are necessary for efficiency and effectiveness.  Numerous configurations of groups and linkages have been designed over recent decades, but two major ones stand out: the Matrix and the Network.

The matrix organization has been utilized by many organizations to increase agility by balancing the vertical hierarchy in functional groups with the horizontal leadership of multifunctional project teams.  Matrix structures were expected to deliver greater adaptability and customer responsiveness, more informed and effective decision making, and better leveraging of talent through cross-border collaboration.
The application of matrix structures, however, has been difficult.  Some companies have experienced increased bureaucracy, confusion and misalignment, increased political game-playing between groups, along with decision making inertia and reduced productivity.       

The introduction of increased connectivity through social media technologies has now enabled a new organizational contestant: the network.  Cross-functional matrix teams tend to engage in what is called structured collaboration – it is clearly defined in terms of desired outcome, membership, tasks, roles, rules, scope, timeframes, technologies, and standard processes.  What network technologies allow is greater fluidity of connections and faster formation of temporary teams.  Network teams typically engage in emergent collaboration which is unstructured, flexible, and often spontaneous.  This type of collaboration is called ‘emergent’ because the participants, the processes, tasks, and outcomes are variable – they emerge as the collaboration progresses. 

The reality is that no one organizational type can be the answer to today’s business challenges.  Organizations – and, of course, their people – must deliver high performance in hybrid structures.

Organizational flux is with us into the foreseeable future.