This week's unit is about networks of influence, direction, and power. How the work gets shaped.
There are three structures that exist within all organisations, through which work is directed.
First is the most obvious structure, the classic pyramid hierarchy of formal power. In Open IT, we want to invert that hierarchy, as a servant to the work, not a master. This means distributing authority as close to the work as possible, empowering teams to operate with autonomy.
IT is an extreme example of the general principle that the further authority is removed in levels of hierarchy from the actual work, the less likely they are to have the technical understanding of the decisions to be made. A good example of this is the superiority of peer review and self-certification of change over CABs or Change Managers approving changes. Another obvious example is Agile, which is based on self-organising teams.
A second structure is the network of influence, which has strong nodes amongst loosely coupled groups. The nodes are the respected individual influencers, who are often not in the formal hierarchy. It tends to be a meritocracy, a respect for people's mastery of the work. Again IT is an extreme example of this, where we give high status to technical masters. Organisations formalise some of that influence in whatever you call groups based on common expertise: guilds, chapters, communities of practice…. In Open IT, we recognise this status in the Shu-Ha-Ri model.
A third structure* is the value network which is typically a multi-directional less-structured network of co-creating independent agents. Often the value streams are modeled as a linear flow, which can be an oversimplification. The linear flow model is appropriate within IT for the development-to-production delivery value stream (hence DevOps), but it is not a good model for design and build, which tends to be much messier. People's roles within the value networks give them a third form of influence over how the work gets done: product owners, process owners, gatekeepers, architects, and of course practitioners - the creators of value.
To change how we work, we need to engage and think about all three structures.
🌸 Start with changing the way managers are managing, to Open Management. This unlocks all that follows.
🌸 Then improve the value network: let the people doing the work - in fact all stakeholders - design the work.
🌸 Engage the influence network to approve and promote improvements.
🌸 Only then should we think about changing the formal organisational structure. For pity's sake, stop trying to force change through reorgs. Structural change should lag other changes, after we have experimented with virtual teams to confirm a better structure, then ask for the change.
All this happens incrementally, locally, experimentally. Big-bang change is one of the worst dysfunctions of management. Iterate through the above sequence regularly to create continual improvement of how you work.
* We got these three structures from Niels Pflaeging