One of the largest forces that influences all business people today is change. In my lifetime, change started as something that was to be avoided if possible. Then, change initiatives came along but they had to be signed off by many people in the organization. Next came the urgency for vision and leadership to change through strategy and operational processes. About the time when the internet was introduced, change had become a constant, and some large existing organizations became “dinosaurs” and were being out-competed by nimble startup’s or more adaptable organizations.
Today, however, the ever-present rapid change is accelerating all the time, and business must find ways to respond. Even the “expert” on change said in an interview that changing organizations is changing. John Kotter who wrote about change in large organizations, and is one of the world’s leaders in change management:
“In the macro sense, the biggest thing happening today is that the rate of change continues to increase, with no end in sight.”
He goes on to say that hierarchy still reigns as the most prevalent structure, but acknowledges that if you don’t have a networked, web system right alongside of it, you will not be able to respond to the pace of change today.
Many headlines are filled with important, very successful companies trying to stay in the game with all the rapidly evolving and adapting marketplaces today. Timely, the headline of the Twin Cities Business magazine reads: “Run Target Run – can the venerable retailer change fast enough to outwit its growing competition.”
One organization dedicated to helping organizations change is called Holocracy1. It is also a book, where Brian Robertson writes this about what is needed in future organizations:
“In today’s post industrial world, however, organizations face significant new challenges: increasing complexity, enhanced transparency, greater interconnection, shorter time horizons, economic and environmental instability, and demands to have a more positive impact on the world.”
He reflects on what is needed to make this happen, which he calls a whole new “operating management system” in the future:
“Even with great leadership, the structure of the modern organization rarely helps ignite passion and creativity in the workforce. In short, today’s organizations are becoming obsolete.”
What is the alternative that he and many others suggest? He says the best metaphor is the human body. Listen again to his words:
“Another of my favorite metaphors for what I am looking to achieve in organizations is a system we are all very familiar with: the human body. The rather miraculous human body functions efficiently and effectively not with top-down command system, but with a distributed system – a network of autonomous self-organizing entities distributed throughout the body. Each of the entities, which are cells, organs, and organ systems has capacity to take in messages, process them, and generate output. Each has a function and the autonomy to organize how it completes it.”
This could have been taken right off the page Paul was dictating to the Roman church. In Romans 12 we read:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Paul is asking them to not be conformed to the pattern of the world, but be transformed in the renewal of the mind. What pattern was he referring to – the hierarchical leadership like Caesar, Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, etc? Instead, he suggests that we see ourselves as a body, where gifts are distributed to each person. Each person must do their work well, and have the whole body in mind when they do their work for the body to thrive.
We will be writing more posts and recording more podcasts on why this is critical as a structure in our rapidly changing world today, but know that it is exactly what the New Testament and Paul were aiming at when they talked about this new organization, the Body of Christ.
Want to learn more on the topic? Listen to our podcast on Organizational Change.