Managing complex structures – how complex?
Since many years I have been working in and with organizations which is suffering from increasing complexity. The problem is usually not the complexity in itself but the inability of the top management to acknowledge the current level and understand that this particular degree of complexity require a different set of methods and skills. It is most likely so that it is meaningless to talk about management as one area of expertise for all these levels of complexity, uncertainty and self regulation we see in organizations today.
One of my problems have been to find a way to talk about different levels of complexity in organizations in a way that a management team understand. Sometime around 1996-97 I had the idea of mapping all mail conversations to provide us with a pretty good view of what was happening in the company at a certain time. I didn’t succeed in convincing anyone that this was a good idea and since I had a limited budget the idea was scrapped.
From a completely different area comes images the call structure from a Linux system in comparison to the call structure from a Windows system as an argument Windows being much harder to secure than Linux:
Â» Why Windows is less secure than Linux | Threat Chaos | ZDNet.com
The Linux system looked like this:
and the Windows system looked like this:
Talking about images tell more than a thousand words! If you connect this concept to what is going on in the area of developing sociograms for different organizations you maybe could get an understanding for the complexity in the organization in a different way than before. Of course you could make a mathematical complexity analysis and find out a lot more of the system, but what I feel is needed is a social science theory and a taxonomy that says something about which methods and approaches are valid for different levels of complexity. I am talking pedagogy like e g www.gapminder.org.
Another issue is of course tracking how complexity changes over time and how individuals manage to reduce the complexity in their immediate work situation and how the system emerges.
From a futurist perspective it would be interesting to assess in what state different organizational structures are. Which are in fact able to formulate a direction and move in that direction and which are not? Since I believe that horizontal organizing step by step becomes more effective and traditional vertical organization suffer from a flattening capability this could be another way of looking at the development over time.
This is probably connected to Dr Ichak Adizes ideas of organizational life cycles as well.