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The boxes-and-arrows access to organisation architecture may accept outlived its use.
Say “organisation design” and (too) abounding bodies anticipate of boxes and arrows abiding in a almost cone-shaped shape. Organisation archive are accoutrement for organisation design, but we shouldn’t abash them with the design. They action a high-level arbitrary of a allotment of the anatomy (i.e. what is clearly mandated) of a allotment of the organisation (i.e. the top two or three layers). Organisation architecture involves creating a arrangement of interactions amidst all its associates that advice achieve the organisation’s goals, and org archive appearance such interactions abandoned in a actual base manner.
Perhaps this was all that was achievable afore the era of big data. Now that it has become accessible to accumulate and analyse abstracts at the akin of abandoned advisers and their interactions aural teams, networks and concrete locations, relying abandoned on org archive to accord with architecture is a bit like application telescopes to abstraction bacteria.
I accept been alive with my collaborators and acceptance for the accomplished decade on a angle on organisation architecture that offers designers the agnate of a microscope – what I alarm the microstructural angle on organisation design. I am hopeful that microstructural cerebration will ability accustomed convenance through the accepted channels of teaching and consulting work. But for academics and PhD acceptance absorbed in the assay that underlies this approach, the capacity can be begin in my new book The Microstructure of Organizations.
The microstructural lens
The microstructural appearance of organisation architecture we accept developed recognises that every abandoned who is amenable for allowance a accumulation of bodies collectively achieve article is an organisation designer. This is because any aggressive accumulation of two or added agents is an organisation. This all-embracing analogue allows us to amusement divisions, departments and alike teams aural departments as a set of nested organisations. Why is that useful?
Every organisation, behindhand of its scale, faces the aforementioned accepted problems: how to bisect goals into tasks (division of labour) and how to put the after-effects aback calm afresh (integration of effort). While these problems are universal, there are abounding altered approaches to analytic them, and a set of such solutions is an organisation’s design. However, recognising the absoluteness of the basal problems of organising gives us a accepted framework to analyse organisations of all types and sizes, nested or not.
This framework suggests one important point of abandonment from accepted thinking, and one important similarity. The characteristic affection is that we can anticipate of anatomy alike in actual baby organisations (such as teams), and that these appear in a few alternate patterns (microstructures). In fact, alike the best complicated org blueprint in the apple can be apparent to be fabricated up of these architecture blocks – they are the “atoms” of organisation design. Microstructures are advantageous accoutrement for cerebration about organisation architecture directly, in agreement of alternation amid people. They additionally accord us a advantageous framework to accomplish faculty of the volumes of abstracts about individuals and their interactions that we accept today, and action a alleyway to pilot organisation architecture changes in baby structures afore ascent up.
Structure, allocation and sense-making
Like absolute approaches to analytic the basal problems of design, we attending not abandoned at anatomy but additionally at the processes of allocation (which shapes who is in and who’s out) and sense-making (how associates anatomy aggregate behavior and compassionate about how to assignment together).
Structure, allocation and sense-making accommodate a basal “palette” of solutions to mix and bout and agreement with. Critically, such a accepted framework allows us to carefully acceptation solutions beyond contexts as able-bodied as to adjust solutions beyond levels of nested organisations. It additionally highlights that cerebration of architecture in agreement of anatomy abandoned is acceptable to be ineffective, and that any one anatomy is absurd to be advantageous beyond organisations unless these firms are additionally agnate in agreement of allocation and sense-making. It’s fair to say that the allocation and sense-making processes at a tech aggregation such as Google are – and should be – absolutely altered from those of, say, Renault-Nissan. Therefore, the architecture approaches that assignment for one may abort miserably if adopted by the other.
In sum, the microstructural angle on architecture takes the consultant’s “best-practice” admonition access and turns it on its head: It’s the problems of organising that are universal, not the solutions. But a acclimatized access to cerebration about solutions comes from recognising the absoluteness of the problems. This angle additionally gives us a way to anticipate about how we articulation individuals and the interactions amid them to the questions of design, as able-bodied as how to administer the latest accoutrement for assay (such as apparatus learning, experiments, blueprint approach and computational modelling).
Phanish Puranam is INSEAD Professor of Strategy and the Roland Berger Chair Professor of Strategy and Organisation Design.
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