Home Concepts Organizational Theory It is Time to Reinvent the Organization: As Places for People to Express Passion and Purpose

It is Time to Reinvent the Organization: As Places for People to Express Passion and Purpose

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Does anyone seriously think that command and control, top down, bureaucratic hierarchies are the way to a viable and sustainable future in the age of free and unfettered human expression that the internet and social media has unleashed? I think not. We need to wake up to the fact that the future will not conform to the prejudices and preferences of a privileged few who control organizations now.

Max Weber said bureaucracy is, “…the most rational known means of carrying out imperative control over human beings. It is superior to any other form in precision, in stability, the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability.”

Is this what we want as the fundamental organizing principle of organization? Especially when we dig into the culture that bureaucracy fosters: subservience to authority, compliance with rules and procedures, high need for predictability, standardization, respect for the chain of command, get permission first, …

In the sixteenth century Martin Luther wanted to stop the abuses of the Catholic Church. He saw the selling of indulgences as corrupt and wrong — he had such a clear and compelling context for change that he was ready to risk the disapproval, retribution even, of the Church’s hierarchy. He saw what was wrong that needed to be changed and, according to one account, he nailed his 95 Theses [big fixes] to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg — for his day this was equal to big time flaming on the internet; his actions sparking the Reformation.

Fast forward 500 years and another Martin Luther, this time Martin Luther King, and we have another champion of much needed society-wide change. Change to redress the oppression and injustices that he saw, and change to realize a possibility, which he eloquently shared at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. — in his now famous, I have a Dream speech.

Given the circumstances of the time, and the vision, commitment and courage of the two Martins, the reformation and the civil rights movement were, with the benefit of hindsight, an inevitable outcome. It could not have been otherwise. Some day soon, so it will be said about the transformation of our organizational design.

My life’s work has been in the world of business, first as an executive and now as a consultant, executive coach and, as one client labeled me, a CEO Whisperer. I acknowledge a bias for business. Business organizations touch all of our lives. They employ many of us; we all use their products and services. We cannot function as a human society anymore without what businesses do and provide.

From my perspective viable flourishing organizations are an essential element for a sustainable thriving human society.

The business media focuses on those who have successfully exploited the current business model and their huge executive compensations. However, their moves to create even larger too big to fail organizations are attracting little attention — not the unsustainability of that model nor the cost to society.

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