Organizational Leadership News & Views

Organizations are becoming more complex. How will they be led?

  • Alvernia MOL

Businesses and organizations have become more complex because of globalization, technology and the need for speed. To keep up, organizational leaders must expect and embrace change.

One driver of organizational complexity is the interdependence within organizations today. Human and technological resources are linked in these organizations to improve efficiency and accountability. Changes that once may have affected a few, now affect many or all.

An example of interconnectedness is the use of software that is shared among departments. People throughout an organization use the shared software with the benefits being streamlined processes, transparency and manageable workflows. There are downsides, however. If one department were to experience difficulties, it could impact multiple teams outside of them. In addition, a single problem with the software could affect many business functions.

How companies’ and organizations’ systems are interconnected has played an important role in leaders’ decision-making. Often, leaders must adopt new approaches to developing and leading organizations. Using the ever-growing interconnectedness of organizations as an example, we can see that leaders now need to think in cross-organizational terms. This and increased globalization has called for leaders who can see how the smaller details make up the bigger picture.

When organizations improve the way they manage complexity, it has a positive impact on both productivity and morale. Yves Morieux, a senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group and co-author of Six Simple Rules, How to Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated researched complex organizations and created an approach for organizations to improve their process.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Morieux says this approach “entails creating an environment in which employees can work with one another to develop creative solutions to complex challenges. This approach leads to organizations that ably address numerous fluid and contradictory requirements without structural and procedural complicatedness.”

To reach this goal, Morieux recommends what he calls ‘smart rules.’

The first three of these rules are enabling – they provide the information needed to understand a problem and then empowers workers to make good choices. The second three are impelling – they motivate individuals to cooperate by showing the consequences of their actions.

Rule 1: Improve the understanding of what coworkers do

Rule 2: Reinforce the people who are integrators

Rule 3: Expand the amount of power available

Rule 4: Increase the need for reciprocity

Rule 5: Make employees feel the shadow of the future

Rule 6: Put the blame on the uncooperative

In this TED Talk, Yves Morieux talks about managing complex work by engaging employees.

Knowing the importance of teaching leaders to manage complexity, one of the first courses offered in the Masters in Organizational Leadership (MOL) program at Alvernia in Reading, PA is called MOL 510 Social Theory. This course examines the foundations and applications of social theory in terms of understanding the complexity of organizational dynamics, processes, systems, and forces in order to develop robust solutions.

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