• Jonathan Magid

    This is a worthy article that paints an aspirational picture of future organizations. My experience indicates that cultures like you’ve described above require exceptionally rigorous care and feeding. Hyper-growth companies often create silos unwittingly and it’s easy for people who are creating that growth to lose sight of the organization’s founding principles when they’re rewarded, justly, for that growth. Also, let’s not kid ourselves: there is ALWAYS a pyramid and there always will be. Given that, there will always be greater supply of people with ambition for power than there will be demand for it. This needn’t be the death knell for cultures such as you’ve described, but it does indicate that they need intense focus, perhaps most particularly in hiring decisions.

    Thanks for a quality article.

    • Edward Marshall

      Jonathan, thank you for your thoughtful response. Just a thought on the permanence of pyramids–what I have learned from working in a virtual and networked environment is that not only are the walls coming down as we work globally, but technology is opening up new ways of working horizontally that do not require hierarchy. The 20th Century, factory-based, specialization of labor, etc. hierarchical model is no longer relevant or functional in the networked, nodal, virtual, and global environment we all live in. Trying to maintain this type of structure in a “we” world results in serious dysfunction in the organization, which costs them morale, profitability, and sustainability. So while hierarchy still exists, and in some instances (like the military) is needed, we are witnessing the withering away of that form of leadership. It’s being “forced” to change by globalization, technology, millenials who won’t work in that type of culture, and the reality of the virtual organization. I also see the matrixed organization going the same way. Trust-based, “we” oriented, networked, problem and customer-centric organizations are the wave of the future.

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful piece. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

      • Jonathan Magid

        Hi Edward – thanks for your comments. I really did enjoy the article and I think we’re probably pretty closely aligned. I agree that the networked nature of organizations, not to mention the kind of work most knowledge orgs do, renders traditional org design ineffective at best, if not irrelevant.

        That said, there’s still a hierarchy and there’s still a pyramid. There might be far fewer management layers (thank goodness, in most cases!) but there will still be a small number of people in a firm who hold more position power than the average worker. You’re correct about ways of working – senior folks will work shoulder-to-shoulder, operating as teammates with others, and that’s a great thing – but that won’t create a workplace where we are all truly equals.

        That’s what brings me to what I think is the salient point: I believe cultures like you describe are possible, and I’d love to see them emerging everywhere. But because there will always be some people who have more power than others, these cultures will always require a lot of care and feeding to ensure that they remain flexible in the face of the inevitable human tensions that arise. It only takes one a-hole in a senior position to do tremendous damage to a culture like you’ve described, which is why I offer that hiring decisions particularly need to be made with exceptional care.

        Anyway, I hope that helps clarify a bit. I’m very much on your side in this thing… and I think we can’t ever take a great organizational culture for granted at all.

        • Erik Jan Scholten

          Hierarchy is often a response to size. A way to create more of a ‘we’ culture in organisations is to reduce the size of the units that make up that organisation. Smaller units need less hierarchy and give more autonomy and ownership as well as learning and development opportunities for individuals. Reducing the size of the units of performance may cost in terms of ‘scale’ and ‘best practice’ but will make a ‘we’ culture more realistic with corresponding rewards for all involved.

  • Scott Span

    Great points on the “WE” and really like that list … as the saying goes…sometimes it takes an army…and I’ll add one who is marching toward achieving the same mission.

    • Edward Marshall

      Scott, thank you for your comment. Yes, it takes armies, villages, and all of us to do problem-solving. I’d like to hear about your experience in trying to achieve this mission.

      Edward

      • Scott Span

        To much to type in a comments box =). Happy to chat, feel free to drop me an email or LinkedIn.

  • kevin kobett

    The We organization is the ideal state. It is unattainable unless the organization becomes a Me organization where Me isn’t a select few but every individual. What’s in it for the guy standing at a machine all day long and has to rush to the break room to wolf down a peanut butter sandwich? Thirty minutes after he resumes work after lunch the big shots arrive back from lunch carrying their favorite beverages. The big shots always tell the machine operator there is no I in team.
    I know of a couple unique reasons to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” One reason to embrace the We organization is for your children. The We organization is not going away. Japan excels at the We organization. To compete, we must continue the journey. Your children we be under more pressure than you to collaborate. The best training for them is now. Telling the stories of collaboration and innovation from work will teach them to be the leader who goes into the break room and has a peanut butter sandwich with the machine operators.