A New Work Order — The Art of Network Organizations
Max Becker

Max Becker

Real­ly? Anoth­er blog about new work? Oh yes! Why? Because of rea­sons. But let’s try to be a bit more seri­ous here: The term new work is one com­mon­ly used by orga­ni­za­tions which are fac­ing or already expe­ri­enc­ing the sys­temic change induced by an increas­ing­ly dig­i­tized soci­ety. The term itself is so man­i­fold that it would be pre­sump­tu­ous to attempt an in-depth dis­cus­sion with­in one blog post. Thus, we will focus on one key asset of the new work­ing world: the net­work orga­ni­za­tion.

The (social) Network

Today, one of the most urgent ques­tions orga­ni­za­tions ask them­selves is: How can they adapt to a future that is no longer pre­dictable? The answer to this ques­tion often revolves around the poten­tial tech­no­log­i­cal impact of the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion or even our phys­i­cal work­ing envi­ron­ment. Hands up! Whose com­pa­ny recent­ly bought some new fat­boys or is attempt­ing to lit­er­al­ly build the myth-enshroud­ed open space? Sure thing, these com­po­nents are fun­da­men­tal to imple­ment new ways of work­ing togeth­er and thus speed up the process of trans­for­ma­tion. But isn’t there a much big­ger chal­lenge that a mod­ern orga­ni­za­tion has to address? Instead of obsess­ing with the arrange­ment of the fur­ni­ture and office space, shouldn’t we ask our­selves how we could orga­nize the actu­al peo­ple bet­ter?

To approach this ques­tion, let’s take a look at a typ­i­cal sit­u­a­tion from dai­ly life: You are mov­ing from one city to anoth­er and in order to save some mon­ey you may ask as many friends as pos­si­ble to help you car­ry this unbe­liev­ably heavy wash­ing machine of yours. To put it in more abstract words, you just acti­vat­ed your per­son­al net­work in need of urgent assis­tance since shar­ing infor­ma­tion is a com­mon activ­i­ty in our pri­vate life. We sim­ply help each oth­er with­out assum­ing that we have to know every detail there is.

Network Organizations on the Rise

In tra­di­tion­al com­pa­nies, how­ev­er, the sit­u­a­tion is quite dif­fer­ent. It seems as if ask­ing for help, admit­ting we don’t know some­thing, shar­ing infor­ma­tion or even shar­ing what we are doing is more a desired act than an actu­al habit. This doesn’t match with the loose, yet dynam­ic net­works we usu­al­ly par­take in with­in our pri­vate cir­cles. Nev­er­the­less, the tra­di­tion­al hier­ar­chi­cal insti­tu­tions are about to change: our work lives begin to feel more than the rest of our lives espe­cial­ly when it comes to work­ing togeth­er in a net­work. Orga­ni­za­tions start to share infor­ma­tion in order to help each oth­er and cre­ate the prod­ucts and ser­vices that ful­fil the indi­vid­ual needs of their cus­tomers. Going back to the begin­ning of this blog post, it isn’t the num­ber of fat­boys that mat­ters but the will­ing­ness to adapt with­in a rapid­ly chang­ing world. There­fore, the chal­lenge today’s com­pa­nies face is pri­mar­i­ly a ques­tion of how to set up a new par­a­digm for work­ing.

“We have it in our pow­er to begin the world over again.” (Thomas Paine)

Our cur­rent eco­nom­ic belief sys­tem cel­e­brates com­pe­ti­tion among indi­vid­u­als. It’s about how pro­duc­tive you are com­pared to your col­leagues, how many deals you can strike com­pared to oth­er sales­men, and how much bonus you can get for your­self. But this sys­tem is becom­ing increas­ing­ly com­plex and indi­vid­ual heroes can’t save the day any­more. We need to define a new par­a­digm of how to work togeth­er in an orga­ni­za­tion. With the world as we know it becom­ing more inter­con­nect­ed, val­ue cre­ation is shift­ing from the indi­vid­ual to the col­lec­tive. It will be the resilient, high-empa­thy teams that dri­ve the best out­comes in the near­by future.

True impact can only hap­pen through peo­ple who are inspired, moti­vat­ed, and empow­ered to cre­ate a bold future. Thus, the idea of rely­ing on each other’s com­pe­ten­cies becomes more impor­tant than ever before. A pur­pose­ful net­work is where real change hap­pens — it enables com­pa­nies to unearth new val­ues and become a pil­lar of mod­ern soci­ety. Need an exam­ple? Have a look at Buurt­zorg! An ambu­la­to­ry neigh­boor­hood care ser­vice from the Nether­lands that is oper­at­ed by self-orga­niz­ing teams of ten to twelve nurs­es with no man­ag­er or team leader at all. Right now Buurt­zorg employs two-thirds of all neigh­bor­hood nurs­es in the Nether­lands while the head­quar­ter team con­sists of only around thir­ty peo­ple. Fur­ther­more, Buurt­zorg is not just one of biggest nurs­ing ser­vices, but also the most prof­itable one as well.

This blog post was inspired by the book “Rein­vent­ing Orga­ni­za­tions” — a def­i­nite must read!

I am Max, Part­ner at 1789 — Beyond Rev­o­lu­tion , a strate­gic con­sul­tan­cy with a focus on help­ing orga­ni­za­tions cre­ate new struc­tures and empow­er­ing teams. Do you agree or dis­agree with my thoughts? Do you want to share your sto­ry? Please leave a com­ment below!

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