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In past blogs I talked about the need for organizations operating in today’s complex economy to maximize their efficiency while simultaneously exploring new opportunities and inventing new possibilities.  This massive juggling act for organizational leaders demands these two streams of activity share already over-stretched resources.

As leaders consider how best to coordinate and align these seemingly opposing requirements, it becomes abundantly clear traditional organizational designs, such as hierarchies, cannot adequately accommodate. In the past, companies—strategizing for optimization—designed hierarchical organizations because they were best suited for standardizing processes and expanding scale.  At the same time, companies—strategizing for innovation—designed collaborative work systems in ‘boutique business units’ whose agility and creativity were suited to rapid change and evolving customer demands.

Our design work today is to recognize that strategizing for ‘either’ optimization ‘or’ innovation does not serve customer or organizational needs.  Customers want their evolving needs addressed in the moment and organizations want to manage energy and resources efficiently.  Shifting to a ‘both/and’ strategy draws from the best of this ‘innovate and optimize’ paradox.  Those of us in the field of organizational design and development are still in the infancy stage of operationalizing what this emerging enterprise looks like.

For now, managing with integrity means we stand with a foot in both worlds, exploring the horizon for new solutions while optimizing our existing programs and services.  The good news is some of us are better optimizers while others excel at innovating—which suggests to me there will be room for all to find their niche.  By every indication in the market place, the trend is toward living and working our passion.

As a strategist and futurist, my passion is on the innovation side.  However, in a ‘both/and’ world, strategists need to innovate from a place of stability.  Without that solid foundation provided by our optimization efforts, we cannot actualize our aspirations.  Remember Maslow’s contention that until our survival needs are met, higher development needs are unavailable.  Well, today we are simultaneously working survival and self-actualization needs in an accelerated developmental fashion.  Where does this lead or leave us?  In next Monday’s blog, I intend to layout the skeleton of a model for an adaptive enterprise that my Socio-technical Systems Roundtable colleagues and I are designing.

If you work in the same organization every day, do you find yourself optimizing, innovating or both?  And how is that working out for you?

Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.

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