We are in the process of building a great company. Well that is how I feel anyway. As I have been thinking about TomorrowToday.biz I would like to share some thoughts concerning how we are configuring in the hope that they will foster understanding, create dialogue and thereby contribute in some small way to my initial assertion namely, that WE ARE BUILDING A GREAT COMPANY. And donâ€™t forget to include that little (as far as words go) but hugely important word, ‘process’ in the mix.
TomorrowToday.biz has essentially a network configuration or structure. This is distinctly different to the older, more traditional hierarchal structures with which I would suggest most of us are familiar and where we most likely have accumulated much our working experience. The memes that guard this way of experiencing work and organisations are pervasively strong and resilient to change. However, we are in the process (thereâ€™s that word again!) of breaking the mould. This reality alone is enough to cause a little anxiousness and means that we canâ€™t find too many similar groupings out there from which to draw some measure of encouragement and learning. â€šBut you donâ€™t look like usâ€Œyouâ€™re differentâ€› is what we should get use to hearing in the corporate playground in which we play. And yes, we need to understand that which we do as â€˜playâ€™ â€? â€˜serious playâ€™ certainly, but play nonetheless. But any astute observer of children at play knows that adding â€˜seriousâ€™ to their activity is really superfluous to requirements. It was Buckminster Fuller who said, â€šYou never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsoleteâ€› and that is what we do through our frameworking, storytelling and gamebreaking.
Letâ€™s do some thinking then concerning our TomorrowToday.biz structures and some implications of what it is are growing.
The word â€˜structureâ€™ means complex construction. In the old hierarchical structure depicting how things worked and who fitted in where was easy. In a networked model things arenâ€™t as simple. For one thing the network structure invites one to see things from a holistic point of view, to understand it as a whole system. Customers / clients are seen as part of the whole system and the network undergoes constant change as it responds to the multiple external and internal change drivers. In this structure interconnections and networking communication will be dependent on the people, not the technology. This is an important point that is being made here. The technology is necessary to facilitate dynamic and robust communication but on its own is not sufficient to guarantee that it happens. In TomorrowToday.biz we have now established the technology that allows us to network and communicate but it is the people, you and me, on which networking and communication depends.
There are four principles needed to make the network organisation work. An easy way for me to remember these principles is to â€˜acronymâ€™ them: CiFi is it – and it kind of plays on the familiar â€˜WiFiâ€™ term, which I guess is technologyâ€™s way of enhancing networking!
The Cifi principles then are as follows:
1. Communicate: Everyone should communicate via the network. Although electronic communication is important, face-to-face communication across the network is vital.
2. Information: There should be open access to both people and information. The underpinning driver to this is the unshakable belief that everybody in the network has something relevant to contribute.
3. Forums: In networks people work together through forums. Forums are not the same as meetings and shouldnâ€™t be run as such.
4. Incentives: To encourage information exchange incentives should be put in place. Any policies (and we are doing our very best to avoid â€˜cloggingâ€™ the TomorrowToday.biz network with policies) can also be used to encourage the flow of information
There are three fundamental changes stemming from a network structure (as compared to a hierarchical structure).
Firstly, there is a shift in power. In the hierarchy, power is based on position. In a network structure, power is based on what and who people know. With the open communication flow that a network allows, traditional information gatekeepers can be bypassed and power distributed to all. There have been times when certain people within TomorrowToday.biz have been referred to as â€šthe bossesâ€›. This reference does not fit the network model, especially when people understand how networks operate, know their roles, have access to information and feel empowered to function for the good of the whole. Erich Jantsch wrote: â€šIn life, the issue is not control but dynamic connectivenessâ€› (The Self-Organising Universe). In TomorrowToday.biz we should never be concerned about issues of control (power) but rather about the health of our connectedness.
We have said that power in a network resides â€˜on who and what people know. This means that besides developing healthy relationships (both inside and outside of TomorrowToday.biz) we need to take personal responsibility for growing our own knowledge base. There are books that all of us should be reading in order to foster a communal understanding of our message and how we are building this business. Of course books are only one way to spread this knowledge and it can occur through conversations, seeing and participation in the presentations, contributing our experiences and stories to the â€˜contentâ€™ laboratory, assuming new tasks and responsibilities and so on. Jean Piaget, a familiar figure from my studies and work in youth development, found two distinct processes of learning: The first was the process of taking in information through the process of â€˜assimilationâ€™. This is cognitive, formal, conventional learning through books, lectures, courses and so on. The second process Piaget coined as, â€˜accommodationâ€™ which requires more than conventional teaching and training. Accommodation is when we learn not only with our intellect but with our heart while accepting that the final outcome will remain unknown. Learning this way is essential in TomorrowToday.biz and so words like â€˜trustâ€™, â€˜journeyâ€™ and â€˜processâ€™ take on added meaning and importance. It assumes not only that everyone has the potential to lead but that people really want to learn and develop. It was Galileo who said, â€šWe cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover itâ€›. This type of learning goes beyond merely absorbing information. It involves beliefs and perceptions and occurs when underlying assumptions are questioned and real transformation occurs. And to risk advocating my passion, it is in this tough, at times terrifying, but essential leadership terrain that storytelling emerges as the treasured currency! This is the realm where tomorrowâ€™s leaders will be found and if we are smart we will waste no time in taking this road less travelled. There is much more to be said here but I think the point has been made.
Secondly, career ladders disappear in a network. There are no â€˜boxesâ€™ to constrain people and no promotions for which to scrabble. There is no â€˜topâ€™ to aspire towards. Networks enable people to work throughout the structure with the outcome that such opportunity and movement generates personal development and growth. Everybody supports everybody and the personal skills needed for this becomes the responsibility of all in the network. This is very different from hierarchical structures where such skills are regarded as the preserve of the â€˜specialistâ€™.
Thirdly, networks make it possible for service to the clients to become a reality. Networks are about inclusion. A major aspect of TomorrowToday.biz involves Gamebreaking â€? an ideal opportunity for this inclusion to take place: as we get involved in our clientsâ€™ game, so they (directly or indirectly) influence our game. As our message is about the connected economy, we need to ensure that we â€˜connectâ€™ with our clients in authentic ways, in ways that go beyond the norm and as such reflect what we mean by this term.
The network provides us with an alternative to the hierarchy. In TomorrowToday.biz we need to intentionally pursue the establishment of the network both now and into the future. After all, it is the future as far as organisational structures are concerned.
Some summary points concerning network organisations such as TomorrowToday.biz, include:
â€œ Networks are the basis of all living systems
â€œ In the network organisation the aim is to build a community thereby enabling work to have purpose, meaning and direction where individuals feel part of the larger whole
â€œ Networks enable leadership to emerge throughout the network
â€œ Networks create â€˜alternativeâ€™ behaviour including, creativity, flexibility, adaptability, co-operation and self-actualisation.
â€œ Everyone in the network will see pattern rather than physical structure
â€œ There is a large focus on learning
â€œ There is a flow of energy and communication
The above points should provide pointers for us in TomorrowToday.biz as to what we can and canâ€™t expect in and from the organisation. They serve as markers for us as together we build this business and, will assist us in our ongoing dialogue during this process.
I trust you will find this helpful. In the network organisation the notion of epistemology â€? understanding the process of knowing â€? is important. Understanding how we learn about what it is we are building in TomorrowToday.biz will therefore require conscious effort. Understanding our context (structure) is just one facet of this learning process albeit an important one. As already mentioned, the TomorrowToday.biz is an unlikely environment in which to connect and play. â€šThe old organisational architecture, with its implicit assumptions of an underlying hierarchical order, its emphasis on rank, boundary and division, has outlived its usefulnessâ€› writes Hillarie Owen: And we certainly donâ€™t want any of these relics of thinking and working to embed themselves in TomorrowToday.biz.
Finally, let me end with a list of what I hope TomorrowToday.biz will look like as leadership and creativity are unleashed and expressed throughout our organisation. I am sure you will be able to add to this list as each of us, in our own way, take responsibility for contributing to creating such a reality. I hope TomorrowToday.biz will be a place where individuals throughout the organisation:
â€œ Give themselves permission to challenge the status quo
â€œ Are actively encouraged to question â€˜the way things are done around hereâ€™
â€œ Take risks and fail occasionally and are rewarded for it
â€œ Stretch themselves and can look back at how much new knowledge and skill they have acquired
â€œ Spend time networking throughout the organisation to find out what needs to be done and who needs to be involved to make it happen
â€œ Understand the importance of relationship and take personal responsibility to nurture, grow and develop relationship throughout the organisation
â€œ Are skilled at sharing knowledge, problem solving, decision making and risk assessment. And are willing to share their knowledge.
â€œ Participate fully in work across the organisation
â€œ Have fun and enjoy being involved
â€œ Know who they are, what makes them unique and
â€œ Are comfortable expressing their leadership for a worthwhile purpose
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.– Julius Caesar
And so one final word, a favourite of mine, with which to begin and that isâ€Œ.Belum!