Organisations are dynamic not static. They don’t so much exist as transmute, continuously. They entail flows of money, materials, time and influence. They cannot be considered in isolation but in dynamic tension with the rest of the world. They are a system of systems and a system within systems, always attracted to but never reaching a stasis.
And in short, networks work better than your business works today. If your organization today is wedded to hierarchical command and control that is.
The Communist Party of China cannot control its markets. Markets are dynamic, messy, complex. The situation playing out in China demonstrates that command and control is an inadequate and indeed incompatible approach to complex systems.
And if the market is complex, then every business that trades in the market is grappling with complexity.
Command and control is even becoming unsuitable for the very kinds of organization considered synonymous with it – the military. In an article titled It Takes a Network, Retired General Stanley A. McChrystal states:
… just like their allies in al Qaeda, this new Taliban is more network than army, more a community of interest than a corporate structure.
… to defeat a networked enemy we had to become a network ourselves.
We believe every business faces one of just three futures in this respect:
In the most dramatic interpretation, it might appear then that we’re calling for a revolution – a forcible overthrow of a system in favour of a new one.
It should be said that there are varying definitions of what constitutes a revolution, and Alexis de Tocqueville for example included the slow but sweeping transformations of society that take at least many generations to come about.
We don’t think this is how general parlance has it today. Revolution is marked by substantial change in a compressed time period, and we’re more likely to describe slow change over generations as evolution.
We aspire to rapid evolution given that time is a critical dimension of competitive advantage. And we pursue this by adapting the strengths of today’s performance management approaches to the Quantified Organization.
Revolution, on the other hand, is simply too risky unless you happen to occupy a privileged market position affording you room for such manoeuvre.