Jeremy Bellows - The Future Organization

The Future Organization

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In the previous post I talked about the rampant code monkey, copy paste culture. Today we explore our future.

The Abstract

Somewhere in the ancestry of humans a special trait was evolved that allowed our ancestors to survive (and eventually thrive) in their environment. Problem solving allowed beings to resolve obstacles in their environment. Social collaboration enabled combined with critical problem solving enabled the rapid modification to the environment in order to support the biological goals of people.

We’ve achieved an incredible amount using these evolved abilities and continue to do so on a micro and macro level.

Just as ecosystems are systems so are human networks. From the communication of ideas to the resolution of common blocks.

Everytime we pair program we are using the system that enables monumental achievement. The exchange of data and connection to the human experience is what defines us, our mutual values.

Culture

Culture, culture, culture! There’s a lot of talk about culture but not much education in the mainstream tech channels. The closest soul-sucking description I’ve heard used is “an organization’s operating system”. This oversimplified phrase misses the dynamic nature of a cultural system.

Operating system’s focus on dictating a structure around computation. Cultural systems are constantly evolving. The ‘computation’ is distributed and extremely different than computers.

Computers are logical. Sometimes they err but there is usually a logical reason to accompany it. People are ‘mostly’ logical. Logic itself is a byproduct of thought. Emotions are expressions of the individual. They are not inherently logical but can be deduced to forecast their impact. Individuals have varying degrees of impulsivity.

Operating systems attempt to escape entropy in favor of process and structure. Well constructed operating systems account for entropy and build modifying contingencies into the core. Human systems exist in a much harsher environment.

Components

Imagine a 2D plane filled with randomly distributed dots. Each dot represents an individual. Dots sporadically move, connect to other dots for a period of time, and perform their various functions.

What keeps these dots on the plane? What inspires these dots to connect to other dots and exchange information?

Values

Values are abstract by nature. A set of core values is subject to changes over a lifetime. When we define people, we generally use values to describe them. Example: “They are nice, hospitable people.” Values are adjectives and have an order.

A set of values is a capture of a specific state in time. A set captured at a later time compares differently as influenced by experiences, health, circumstance, and locus of control.

Meeting a stranger for the first time can be scary for a lot of people. It’s a situation that poses ambiguous risk. The difference between a stranger and a friend are perceived knowns. When we know the values of the individuals we associate with then situations are ‘predictable’.

Entropy

Human systems are born from entropy. It’s the natural structure that living organisms exist in. Biological systems cannot exist without environmental noise. Noise is the input not the system that prevents the inner working from outputting ‘nonsense’. Systems are alive and require entropy to survive.

Systems React

Systems have an input and an output. Dependent on the construction, systems will react to specific inputs. Many systems have a time delay mechanism to prevent hyper-reaction. This is usually by design and explicitly serves to mitigate risk based on output and future environmental interactions.

Human Systems

Organizations are composed of individuals. Unlike operating systems, people (systems view definition: nodes) have personal motivations, values, experiences, and networks. They are unpredictable, random, victims/exacerbators of entropy, and mortal. These traits are the noise that make human systems work.

A ‘perfect’ system works exactly as intended. There are no surprises that the system can’t handle.

A human system is designed to fail. Evolution does not happen with a perfect environment where all needs and wants are met. When human systems fail they bare a new system. Every failure of a system is an opportunity for a new system to take its place… Just like evolution. The new system may not perform better or even function but it will test entropy and produce results for the next system.

We are a part of this. Our society is built on this idea. Humanity’s greatest strength is resilience.

Types of Human Systems

According to Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron there are four different types of organizations: Hierarchy, Market, Adhocracy, and Clan.

Hierarchy

These are the commonly known organizations. They rely on structure, process, chain of command, consistency, and rules. They have the most efficiency out of all the types.

Common values:

  • Process
  • Obeying Rules
  • Stability
  • Efficiency

Market

Have you seen Wolf on Wall Street? The organization that is created in the movie depicts a market culture. They are competitive, results oriented, and goal focused.

Common values:

  • Competition
  • Winning
  • Reputation

Adhocracy

The least efficient organization. They sacrifice efficiency for innovation, seizing risky opportunities, and empower individual autonomy. Adhocracies mitigate rules\structure to focus on the individuals that compose the organization.

Common values:

  • Sharing information freely
  • Innovation
  • Growth
  • Taking Risks

Clan

Clans are family. Loyalty and tradition is what binds the culture together. They are focused on the relationships and moving together as a unit.

Common values:

  • Collaboration
  • Family
  • Teamwork
  • Mentoring

The Future Organization

It’s important to state there is no #1 culture. Cultures are composed of people and change constantly. They are constructed to fit their environment and die when a new environment appears and they are unable to adapt.

The technology industry prizes the Adhocracy culture but is unable to replicate the culture or destroys the culture when systems clash. The critical error is in systems building. Systems are not built, they are grown.

I won’t get into the how. Instead I’ll explore the what.

The future organization is transformable. Instead of providing a silver bullet structure the organization will automatically use the compositions by cultivating collaboration, responsibly creating boundaries, and maturely creating accountability. The future organization balances the three domains of organizations: Art, Science, and Business.

I believe this organization will be created out of the drive to break the status quo and pioneer a new era of collaboration.

A system of systems.