Friday, 14 September 2007

Organizational Circulatory Systems

I recently read an interesting article from the related field of Organisational Development (so hopefully this is relevant to L&D Professionals - looking beyond training to influence learning processes).

Art Kleiner writing in the OD Practioner (Vol 39, No 3 2007) [paper copy - so sorry no link here] present a paper on 'Organizational Circulatory Systems.

While I cannot do justice to the whole article in a short blog posting - the comparison made between current management science and previous state of natural science understanding is thought-provoking.

This work citing Elliot Jaques state "Management is in the same state today that the natural sciences were in before the discovery of the circulation of the blood". In brief the argument is that OD practioners base interventions primarily on practical experience from trial & error - rather than there being suffient depth of theory to underpin action [OD practioners please don't shoot the messenger here !]

As we know from human physiology - the human body relies on a set of complementary communication channels (both electrical - via nerves, and chemical - via the bloodstream) to coordinate cells across large distances.

So the argument made, is that we should focus further on characterizing the communication channels of organizations. Then in OD interventions, we should use this knowledge to influence interventions (akin to how modern medicine influences the body's electrical & chemical pathways).

FOUR 'Organizational Circulatory Systems' are suggested:

  • Hierarchy (flow of authority)
  • Network (flow of knowledge)
  • Market (flow of work)
  • Clan (flow of allegiance)

Given the power of Web 2.0 tools in influencing all forms of communication flows (e.g. leader blogs [Hierarchy], project team wikis [Network], social bookmarking [Clan]) - maybe this points to the impact OD (& L&D) practioners can contribute if our profession invests the time to understand these tools.