Saturday, December 1, 2012

Future Vision of Organizational Structure and Leadership

As we entered the 21st century, the technological revolution was evolving at such a rapid pace businesses were blindsided and have stumbled along over the past several years trying to catch up and adapt. The National Intelligence Council (NIC), in their report titled Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, reference the 2008 financial crisis as pivotal to this predicament:

. . . reduced economic growth could slow globalization’s pace, increasing protectionist pressures and financial fragmentation” (p. 10). This presents an opportunity for us to ‘catch up’ with technology and implement strategies that streamline processes, improves transparency, enables restructuring with an emphasis on transformational leadership, and increase the percentage of a virtual workplace. (p. 10)

Technology drives globalization.
Copyright 2011 Discovery Education

                  This is good news for businesses today, but it is critically important for organizations to take
                  advantage of this unique opportunity not only to catch up, but also to do everything they can to
                  prepare for a future that promises to return to an even more rapid pace than previously
                  experienced. The typical organizational structure that we are accustomed to is Hierarchical – it is
                  very rigid with naturally occurring silos, as referenced by Evan Rosen, in his article Smashing
                  Silos, “. . . adopting collaborative culture, processes, and tools can keep silo syndrome in check
                  and create greater value” (Rosen, 2010).

Hierarchical organizations are predisposed to suffer from silo syndrome:

This manifestation of silo syndrome breeds insular thinking, redundancy, and suboptimal decision-making. Silo Syndrome can also impact business unites, wreaking havoc with customers. . . . Silos also commonly extend to systems and data. As systems fail to interact and data becomes trapped and unavailable to decision-makers outside the silo, people are less likely to interact. When people are culturally inhibited from interacting across departments and functions, they avoid sharing data and information outside of their silos. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can cost an organization in agility, productivity, and responsiveness. (Rosen, 2010)

Additionally, organizations that hold tight to a traditional hierarchical structure will suffer. Not only with innovation be stifled, but these organizations will become more and more out of touch with their customers and suffer from not attracting the best talent. If the organizational structure is not transformed, silos will become more common making the organization increasingly less effective and relevant. “Formality fuels silos and poisons collaboration . . . We should be able to view the availability or ‘present status’ of everybody in the organization and connect with them immediately through instant messaging, voice, or real-time video . . . everybody is potentially available to everybody else. Unified communications and collaboration systems (Rosen, 2010)

Organizational Silos
Copyright 2011 Beyond Philosophy

Jeffrey Cufaude, in his article Break Out of the Silo Mentaility, emphasizes systems thinking which:

                  . . . takes a holistic and big-picture view, as opposed to one that is more simplistic and linear. It
                  looks for and acknowledges the dynamic, complex, and interconnected nature of relationships
                  and activities. . . . systems looking asks us to look beyond isolated events and to consider
                  patterns of behavior and, even deeper, the structure, beliefs, or mental models that may be
                  contributing to them. (Cufaude, 2009).

Carolyn Corbin, who wrote the book Community Leadership 4.0: Impacting a World Gone Wiki, concurs and emphasizes the responsibility of a new form of leadership as necessary to facilitate this transformation:

On the horizon is yet another paradigm shift: Community 4.0, in which technology erases geographic distance altogether and raises social and intellectual capital to all-time highs. People can live where they choose and telecommute for employers near or far, while quality of life surpasses that of any prior era. No community on earth has yet reached Community 4.0, but almost any can if it adopts a global mind-set that embraces diversity, risk, inclusiveness, and innovation. (2011, p. 5)

Copyright 2011 Carolyn Corbin

Corbin (2011) continues by emphasizing that effective leadership must anticipate tomorrow . . . and promote collaboration (p. 6). Her approach resonates with anyone who has worked within a wiki environment. “In Community 4.0, a leader is anyone who makes a positive impact. And in a wiki community, there may be no formal leader for a particular project” (Corbin, 2011, p. 6).

This review of Corbin’s book within a Futurist journal offers a great synopsis of her forward-thinking text:

                  Community Leadership 4.0 attempts to address future trends without focusing too much on the
                  past. Pointing instead to rapid societal change mirroring technological advancements, the author
                  uses pragmatic reasoning to address issues such as the outsourcing of jobs overseas, virtual
                  work environments (with the advantage of new technology), cyberspace communities, and so
                  on. Corbin sees the future as a smart, intellectual, well-planned, goal directed, globally
                  competitive, innovative, democratic community that fully embraces changes such as Internet
                  based work environments. Community Leadership 4.0 pertains to the kind of leaders we want
                  today in a fast-paced, ever-changing world with extreme needs for communication effectiveness,
                  flexibility, and adaptability to virtual environments. (New, 2012, p. 53)

Experts agree that the organizational structure is changing and will continue with radical change over the next 10+ years. The process of change, however, will be painful for those who are inclined to cling to the ways of the past. Cufaude states“Long-term change only occurs when we address the mental models and belief systems that get in the way of desired results” (2009).

John Kotter authored the article Hierarchy and Network: Two Structures, One Organization, defines a key problem with the existing structure and offers a very realistic approach to integrating the new structure within the existing one: “. . . 20th-century, capital “H” Hierarchy (a sort of hardware) and the managerial processes that run on it (a sort of software) do not handle transformation well. And in a world with an ever-increasing rate of change, it is impossible to thrive without timely transformations. The data, case studies, and personal anecdotes to this effect abound” (2011). Kotter hones in on the mind-set that creates opposition, the inevitable changes organizations will be forced to deal with over the next 10+ years, and then presents a resolution that enables organizations to transform albeit a little less painfully:

                  The challenge is that, at both a philosophical and a practical level, the Hierarchy (with its
                  management processes) opposes change. It strives to eliminate anomaly, standardize
                  processes, solve short-term problems, and achieve stopwatch efficiency within its current
                  mode of operating.

                  In a sense, the crowning accomplishment of the Hierarchy and its management processes is the
                  enterprise on autopilot, everyone ideally situated as a cog whirring on a steady, unthinking and
                  predictable machine.

Organizational Network
Copyright 2009 Interlock

                  . . . the successful organization of the future will have two organizational structures: a Hierarchy,
                  and a more teaming, egalitarian, and adaptive Network. Both are designed and purposeful.
                  While the Hierarchy is as important as it has always been for optimizing work, the Network is
                  where big change happens. It allows a company to more easily spot big opportunities and then
                  change itself to grab them.

                  My idea of the Network is a system of teams with representatives from all divisions and all
                  levels, who leave formal titles at the door to participate in a decidedly anti-hierarchical forum. As
                  the environment changes in various ways, this system senses and responds to it, and in turn
                  creates more and more teams with volunteers to address the discrete parts of a larger change.
                  With this Network, potential opportunities and changes are identified, urgency around
                  tomorrow’s possibilities is fostered and maintained, strategies for organization-wide changes are
                  formed, barriers are identified and addressed, and change is achieved. . . . a whole new system
                  that is much bigger, more powerful and involves far more people.
                  (Kotter, 2011)

Technology has been the force driving this revolution. Global stressors also contribute to the need for change – which include economic challenges, global warming, increased competition, and social responsibility associated with poverty and conflict. Corbin references community as “. . . when people do life together” and sees a future where “a leader is anyone who makes a positive impact” (2011). Our world is changing and the organizational structure will become extinct.

In the report titled The Art of Foresight: Preparing for a Changing World, researchers state that, “People who can think ahead will be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities that rapid social and technological progress are creating. . . . Futurists have recognized that the future is continuous with the present, so we can learn a great deal about what may happen in the future by looking systematically at what is happening now . . . the key thing to watch is trends” (World, 2004, pp. 1-2). Today businesses are increasingly developing virtual teams, collaborating with other industry experts, and engaging individuals across divisions and/or traditional hierarchical levels. The trial and error mishaps make it obvious that technology is a powerful tool but must be carefully considered (with appropriate planning and training) to be effective. Technology that will enable organizations to merge all of their data sources in one system that is accessible to everyone and continually updated will be essential. Effective communication tools are essential, and a revision of corporate policies that not only take into consideration the new environment bu also speak to the renewed vision of the corporation is essential.


Corbin, C. (2011). Community Leadership 4.0: Impacting a World Gone Wiki. (C. f. Century, Ed.) Create Space. Retrieved Nov 29, 2012

Cufaude, J. (2009, Dec). Break Out of the Silo Mentaility. ASAE The Center for Association Leadership.  
        Retrieved Nov 29, 2012, from

Kotter, J. (2011, June 6). Hierarchy and Network: Two Structures, One Organization. Forbes. Retrieved
        Nov 28, 2012, from

New Leaders for New Communities. (2012, January). Futurist [futurist online], 52-53. Retrieved Nov 30,

NIC: Council, N. I. (2008). Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. Washington DC: US Government
        Printing Office. Retrieved Nov 27, 2012

Rosen, E. (2010, Feb 5). Smashing Silos. Business Week. Retrieved Nov 28, 2012, from

World Future Society. (2004). The Art of Foresight: Preparing For A Changing World. Bethesda, MD.
         Retrieved Nov 29, 2012, from


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