Purpose as the directive for going “networked”

During the research for my blog post on Holacracy I came along a very nice posting of Greg Satell explaining the “4 Things You Should Know About Networked Organizations“. Greg Satell is a thinker and regular writer for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. He is doing quite some nice reviews on the theories of networks.

In the mentioned article Greg Satell coins the characteristics of a “networked organization” to some nice principles that put a lot of emphasize on the role of the “cultural foundation” and the “enablement for interconnection” than the “structural setting” of the “networked organization”:

  1. If It Can Fit On An Org Chart, It’s Not A Network: The truth is that networks are informal structures. If it can fit on a traditional org chart, it’s not a network.
  2. Silos Themselves Aren’t The Issue: The most efficient networks are small world networks, which have the almost magical combination of high clustering and short path lengths. So silos aren’t the issue—high clustering promotes effective collaboration—the trick is to connect the silos together effectively.
  3. Small World Networks Form Naturally, If They’re Allowed To: Over time, most systems will tend to become small worlds if they are left uninhibited – if connectivity is not discouraged.
  4. Networked Doesn’t Mean Flat: General McChrystal’s Special Forces Command was still hierarchical and clustered into small operating groups. What changed is how they were interconnected. Rather than a collection of units, they became a synchronized organization that acted as one. So what really needs to change is not how we describe our organizations, but the role of leaders within them. Whereas before, it was the role of managers to direct work, in a connected age we need to instill passion and purpose around a shared mission.

Excerpted from: 4 Things You Should Know About Networked Organizations

So regardless whether you are running for the “Holacracy model“, the “podular organization” / “beta organization“, the “consent organization” or any other form of “networked structure”, the overall directive for the future governance as well as willingness to change towards these models is to find and strenghten a “commonly shared purpose”.

This reminds me to prioritize the book of Clive Wilson on my reading list: “Designing the Purposeful Organization”. It came to my awareness in the information gathering about CIPD – the UK’s “Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development”, which is represented at the upcoming Enterprise Digital SUMMIT by the London branch head David D’Souza. Anyhow – the book builds upon the CIPD research report with the title “Shared Purpose: the Golden Thread?” and discusses the building blocks for bringing “purpose” back to the organisation: