At Post*Shift, we are interested in not only new organisational structures, but also the process of prototyping, testing, and implementing these designs. We would like to share three ideas on the structural elements of a digital operating model that fascinate us:

  • Open source org design. One of the main reasons re-orgs fail is that they are designed from the centre by senior executives and HR. Broader input on what structures might work – or have already formed! – is rarely taken into account. We’ve written extensively about how an enterprise social network is a platform for both passive and active input. The passive input comes from the data that these systems give off. By analysing the patterns of collaboration – the strong and weak links, the inter-team bridges – you can surface the shadow teams that already function and redesign your organisation accordingly. But this data analysis will still miss the ‘why’ behind the patterns, which is where the active input comes in. Here, to capture these nuances and human intelligence, it’s important that ‘change agents’ from across the company help redesign the structure. Do you use your ESN for org design? It’s a strategic use case to break out of the comms-only cycle and level up your platform.
  • The types of teams (and why knowing the difference matters). Not all teams are created equal, and it’s important to know what type of team you’re dealing with (or need to create) as you design your structure. In her fascinating essay on designing teams (link below), Christina Wodtke differentiates between the workgroup – a group of individuals working separately, coordinated by a boss – and higher order teams characterised as multi-disciplinary, learning, and mindful. Too many re-orgs, particularly in firms where function or geography is the dominant axis, simply move people from one workgroup to another. It’s worth considering a new goal of org design – to reduce the occurrences of workgroups in favour of team models that accelerate growth and learning.
  • Co-creation of team practices. Designing the org structure and teams is not the endpoint, although traditional org design often stops there. Even the best-intentioned individuals cannot work together effectively without a conscious design of the team goals, roles, and norms. Wodtke also introduces a practical framework (form/perform/adjourn) and exercises for designing the team. Some good advice here is on how to enshrine team norms (To interrupt, or not to interrupt? What does “Speak your mind” really mean, especially across a team with different cultural backgrounds?).

Fortunately, we are seeing more good thinking on not only new org structures themselves but also the art of designing them. Below is some further reading on the topic: