changing structures

“For the first time since the industrial revolution, organizations are changing at a fundamental level. The change is very much a work in progress in most organizations. But we now have many examples of organizations that are fully functioning in an entirely new way — that is, new ideas about how the organization is designed, about how work gets done, how people relate to each other.” —Nancy Dixon

Image: Nancy Dixon

Read Nancy Dixon’s post for more references and explanations of each of these elements. I would like to provide an illustration for each element.

Networked structure —


Teams as the unit of work —


Self-governed teams —

Focus on human relationships —


Changed role of leaders —

Deployment of virtual teams —

Decentralized Governance —

6 Responses to “changing structures”

  1. Greg Tutunjian

    Nancy’s post PLUS Harold’s illustrations got my day off to a very positive start. Is it a confluence of events and conditions that have precipitated this growing awareness and acknowledgement that PKM is required (especially in larger organizations) and that teams are the key unit of work now? I continue to see a great deal of (disabling) hierarchy in organizations that profess to make the team the center of their efforts (to deliver value, to innovate, etc….name your trend of the week.)

    Leaders as knowledge catalysts (not) is likely the impediment I’m seeing (and experiencing) most often. I very frequently find people in leadership roles due to longevity, institutional knowledge and familiarity (with other leaders.) Agents of change? I don’t think they’re aware of that as a key aspect of their role. This could be a result of where and how I’m looking (and working), too.

    I’m going to share this post and Nancy’s post with an HR leader where I’m engaged. I believe she will be very receptive, and through this possibly influence the leadership team.

    On a side note: I did work this way for a few decades in (primarily for technology companies in the 70’s and 80’s); each engagement memorable and pattern-forming. I can remember the names and faces of the impactful leaders, colleagues and teammates. Leadership then was less risk-averse (or just a little reckless, perhaps) and/or bold enough to push boundaries. I’m still trying to refactor those experiences for modern times. This post is is a major aid in that work.

  2. Thomas Dobrydney

    Greg, I can really appreciate your take on leaders as knowledge catalysts. Just to clarify, I think you are referring to people in formal leadership roles, like executives and senior managers. But your observations resonate with me.

    I think it’s time we start talking about the models Harold shares in the post (PKM, Seek-Sense-Share, etc.) directly with the workforce. The nature of work is changing (e.g., shift from low-value to high-value work) and the average employee cannot bet on leadership providing the upskilling or re-skilling they need. It is in each employee’s best interest to become a self-directed learner, whether or not their organization supports them directly.

    However, managers and executives are employees, too. The smarter ones will understand that employees pursuing learning on their own is a good thing, and will figure out how to “jump in front of the parade”. If we can get them started, and help them network with others, then the “small groups, loosely coupled, united in purpose” concept might take hold. Otherwise, most employees will be waiting for help that doesn’t come.

    To sum up, I think we need to supplement the typical consultant message aimed at executives with a more grass-roots effort aimed at the workers themselves. Thoughts?

    • Harold Jarche

      Thomas said, “To sum up, I think we need to supplement the typical consultant message aimed at executives with a more grass-roots effort aimed at the workers themselves.” — This is exactly what I am doing on a current client engagement, focusing on all workers as well as management.

  3. Greg Tutunjian

    @Thomas: I agree, and always work with teams to facilitate one or more forms of transformation. I’m not a leadership coach (sorry, I lack the patience.) I have come to see that leadership often forms the major impediment to more developed personal and organizational transformation (so I spend more time with them, so to speak.)

    @Harold – Sounds ideal!

  4. Thomas Dobrydney

    I’m glad I wasn’t too far in left field. It just seems that most of the books and blogs I read address their advice to the formal leadership. But what about the employees in an organization such as Greg describes, where leadership lacks the awareness of the problem to invite someone like Harold to help them?

    I’m in process of standing up a blog to spread the seeds of self-directed and social learning, as well as propose practical ways that employees can influence how their learning impacts the organization. I think workforce learning agility is a good term for this, which I think is a pre-requisite for both employee engagement and organization’s potential for adaptive performance.

    My goal is to find channels to communicate directly with employees without having to convince an executive. Still trying to find my voice, but thanks for listening.

    This train got rolling for me after I discovered Harold’s blog about four years ago. Thanks much, Harold!

  5. Harold Jarche

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. All this stuff is complex and messy, and cookie-cutter solutions don’t work, but that’s what too many organizations want. Looking behind the curtain can be scary 😉


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