Theo H Veldsman University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg

Organisations are facing a vastly different future, expressed in the acronym VICCAS: increasing Variety, Values, Interdependency, Complexity, Change, Ambiguity, and Seamlessness. This emerging new order (ENO) requires organisations to rethink radically the Why?, What?, How?, Who?, Where?, and Whereto? of their business, and inter alia their future Organisational Design (OD) embodying their organisation’s delivery logic – their operating model - if they want to remain future fit. This is especially important if they are reconceiving their strategic intent, and wish to use their OD as a competitive edge. As a departure point it must be stated that the ENO is resulting in a significant mind-set shift in the rethinking of the critical ingredients of future-fit organisations in contrast to traditional organisations associated with the ‘old world order’. In essence, the shift is from the traditional mind-set of command-and-control ODs to high flexibility/ high involvement (or network/ value web) ODs. Based on the ENO and the general mind-set shift, seven design criteria for future-fit organisations bear consideration. Design criteria form the DNA of the organisation, specifying how it wishes to operate.

  • Criterion 1: Organisational coherence and synergy. Implicated in the ENO and the mind-set shift regarding organisations befitting this order, is the requirement to view the organisation as a contextually embedded, dynamic, interconnected, and systemic whole, i.e., applying big picture thinking to the Organisational Landscape: everything hangs onto and affects everything, and therefore has to be aligned: context, strategy, design, leadership, people, culture, technology, and performance.
  • Criterion 2: Multiple purposes. The ENO is informed by a shift towards sustainability: the triple bottom line of planet, profit, and people. It has become imperative to view the organisation and its context as co-existing in a symbiotic relationship. The context is populated by diverse stakeholders with multiple needs/ interests, which need to be balanced in fair, equitable ways. Organisations thus have to redefine themselves as multi-purpose entities, able to ‘hear and respond’ to the different ‘voices’ of their respective stakeholders through their delivery logic.
  • Criterion 3: Partnering. The ENO demands from future-fit organisations to be able to do new things, in new ways, in new places, with new parties; to do the existing better and smarter; to ‘stick to their knitting’; to build and/or find new capabilities rapidly and continuously; and to develop and/or source rapidly know-how/ expertise in support of all of above. Amongst other things this requires reinventing their value-generation delivery logic to be based on joint value unlocking and wealth creation with multiple partners.
  • Criterion 4: Innovativeness. In order to stay ahead of the game, the ENO requires relentless innovation through ongoing disruptive innovation/ creative destruction in all organisational facets: markets, clients, products/services, delivery, and the business model. OD becomes a key enabler to continuous, real time, organisational action learning as a critical lever of relentless innovation.
  • Criterion 5: ‘And’ designs. Future-fit organisations will have to move away from Either-Or OD choices. E.g., a product/service OR market/customer delivery logic. Instead, they will have to consider rather ‘And’ delivery logic choices, e.g. a product/service AND market/customer delivery logic; and a function AND process delivery logic in architecting fit-for-purpose ODs.
  • Criterion 6: Global/local integration and responsiveness. Typical of the ENO is for organisations operating globally to think globally AND act locally. The OD challenge is to simultaneously find the right balance between an integration need: the capability to act in concert as a total organisation AND a responsiveness need: the capability to address client/customer needs at the coal face of day-to-day delivery.
  • Criterion 7: Virtuality. The maths of the ENO demands delivery by organisations anywhere, anytime, anyhow, for anyone: the need for a virtually connected organisation. The degrees of virtuality can vary from a conventional organisation becoming increasingly virtualised in doing its work to ‘organisations’ designed around technological, network-based applications that are completely virtual from inception, like Uber, Lyft, Washio, Handy, Amazon, Mechanical Turk, and Airbnb, which are all manifestations of the snowballing rise of the emerging on-demand economy.

The above seven design criteria suggest specifications to consider for re-invented, future-fit delivery logics within the ENO. Only then will the designs of organisations provide them with a competitive edge.

Are work teams in your organisation ineffective? Do work roles disengage your people? Do you intend to restructure? Are you contemplating a merger or an acquisition? Save on consulting fees and learn to compete by design. Learn more about the JvR Academy 1 day Organisational Development workshop.