Organizational Center Redux

I have seen evidence of both organization- and network-centered activities, as I mentioned last week.  These activities are seemingly independent of each other.  I see tools set up to facilitate member-to-member discussions, problem solving and information sharing outside the confines of the organization.  I also see hierarchical control of the flow of information, concurrent with information sharing outside the organizational structure.  At times I am perplexed by the disconnect.  In thinking about this, I believe that is not so much where activities are centered, but more a reflection of the degree of control desired.  In rereading Shirky, I noticed the focus on “running the trains on time.”  His examples involve running large, complex organizations.  Perhaps it is because my organization has not experienced the kind of rapid growth necessitating a larger hierarchy that there is still a feel of ad hoc-ness about the operation.

I also think back to much larger organizations I have worked for.  There was a constant struggle to make things work and the answers developed were many and varied.  Shirky says “what ever methods help coordinate group action will spread, no matter how inefficient they are…”  That is true from what I have experienced.  Successful organizational entities built upon those inefficient methods, but there was always something that was there first, waiting to be improved upon.  The changes were driven by necessity and personal commitment to success.

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2 thoughts on “Organizational Center Redux

  1. Shirky discusses the balancing of the traditionally antagonistic forces of bottom-up spontaneous emergence of order against the forces of top-down command-and-control. It seems that warfare is the origin of command-and-control: any activity that confronts a group of people with immediate risk requires tight coordination for success. This is still true with all kinds of tasks, such as surgery and operating heavy machinery. So, against this background, it’s no wonder command-and-control retains its hold even when it is inefficient or worse. For an executive, it must be hard to understand how ‘uncontrolled’ sharing and collaboration– much less spontaneous collective action– can lead to anything other than disaster. I wonder if there are training programs out here right now helping executives understand how to ‘let go and let the network.’

  2. Mike,

    I know exactly what you mean about the disconnect or conflict between setting up collaboration tools and then guarding the flow of information, I agree it’s really confusing. I’ve also seen that side of things, I’ve always thought that it might have to do with people trying to ensure their own job security… for example, if I am the training expert in the organization, i may be hesitant to train another about proper training design, for fear that person could eventually take my job. So I may set up some collaboration tools (in name only), but I’m not going to truly encourage open knowledge sharing, in order to save my own skin.

    I’m glad that your org is more ad hoc though! I don’t know if I would want to go back to a more org-centric culture…

    Great post!
    Rakesh

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