Showing posts with label Hierarchy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hierarchy. Show all posts

December 20, 2018

Don't Get a Huge Hierarchy or a Big Fat Flat

So organizations are a funny thing.

Too hierarchical and you can get lost in the maze of corner offices.

Too flat, and there is no one to make a darn decision. 

Huge hierarchies can be costly and inefficient, but flat as a board organization are mob rule.

I think there has got to be a happy medium.

- One, where there is leadership, accountability, a reasonable span of control, and room for professional growth. 

- Two, where there is dignity and respect for everyone, and your tile and level doesn't make any difference in terms of having your voice heard and being able to make a difference. 

Hierarchies that reach to the pompous sky and flat organizations where all the air is let out and nothing can get done are those that need to be hailed away in a big menacing orange wheel lock.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 3, 2014

Rejuvenate Like A Starfish


Good video on centralization vs. decentralization.

A spider is the model of a centralized organism or organization--cut of the head and the thing is dead. 

But a starfish is the epitome of one that is decentralized--if you cut off one of the arms (it doesn't have a head) of a Blue Linckia starfish, it just grows another one. And if you cut off all five arms, it grows five new starfish. 

So when it comes to organizations, do you want one like a spider, where all power, decision-making, and talent is concentrated at the top, and if you lose your senior executive(s), you've lost the innovation or operational effectiveness of the entire organization (think what happened when Apple lost Steve Jobs as an example)? 

Or do you want to be an organization that is more decentralized (less hierarchical) like the Starfish--where talent is widely dispersed and work is delegated to the many within. Here the organization's very survival is not threatened when something happens at the top or to somebody. 

In most cases, there is no perfect spider or starfish organization, but more of a hybrid model, where some functions (like HR, finance, communications) are centralized and others are decentralized (based on specific business expertise). 

To me the main point here is that an organization is made up of many individuals, and everyone in the organization is valuable; no one person can do everything and we should leverage each person according to their strengths and help them on their weaknesses. This gives each individual and the organization the best chance of rejuvenation and survival. ;-)
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September 14, 2012

Following The Guy In Front Of You Over A Cliff

Ira Chaleff speaks about his book The Courageous Fellowship.

After seeing holocaust survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms from the horrors of the concentation camps, Chaleff asks "How does this happen?  How do people follow murderous leaders?"

In response Chaleff comes up with the five dimensions to follow courageously:

- Courage to assume responsibility--don't expect your leader to provide for you, but you act for the common purpose that you both serve. (as John F. Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.")

- Courage to serve--recognize the tough job of leadership and help to unburden and support the leader so he/she can be successful.

- Courage to participate in transformation--become full participants in the change and transformation process; ask what you can do differently to improve.

- Courage to constructively question and challenge--when policies and behaviors are counterproductive, step up and voice discomfort and objection.

- Courage to take moral action--in rare, but needed circumstances, you must be willing to dissent, leave, or refuse to obey a direct order when it is unethical or illegal.

I greatly appreciate Charleff speaking out and teaching others to do so and calling for all to "act as principled persons with integrity."

Charleff see leaders and followers less in the traditional hierarchical model and more as partners in achieving a common purpose--and this flattening of the hierarchy enables followers to question, challenge, and dissent when the boundaries of integrity are violated.

While I too believe we must serve courageously and not just follow blindly--as one of my teachers used to say, "if the car in front of you drives off a cliff, are you just going to follow him?"--I am not sure that Chaleff fully addresses the challenges and complexity in what it means to "step out."

While we may like to envision a flat organization structure, the reality in most organizations is that there is a clear hierarchy and as they say, "the nail that stands out, gets hammered down"--it is not easy to challenge authority, even though it can, at rare times, be necessary.

Finally, while Charleff focuses primarily on speaking up when there is a moral issue at hand, I think it is important to also be forthright in everyday issues and challenges that we confront.

Being good at what we do means that you don't just participate in leaderthink or groupthink, but you think on your own and share those thoughts earnestly.

However, once the decision is made--as long as and only when it is moral--then you must serve and support that decision and help make it as successful as possible.

Leaders and followers are a team and that means having the courage to fully participate and having the humility to respect chain of command and serve a noble mission, appropriately.
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February 14, 2010

No Ego Leadership

It’s funny that we get so used to the way things are in our country and culture that it becomes difficult to think there is any other workable way of doing things.

The New York Times, 14 February 2010, has an interview with Vineet Nayar the CEO of HCL Technologies, a global services 100 IT company based in India and ranked by Hewitt Associates in the 30 best employers in Asia.

However, reading the interview from the CEO of this Indian company opens up broad new possibilities for the way we can conduct our organizational affairs and perhaps become more competitive in the 21st century, global market-place.

No single country, industry, company, or person has a monopoly on innovation, and we can learn from some of the outside the box thinking at HCL.

Here are some of Mr. Nayar’s thought-provoking leadership ideas:

Subject

Key Idea

Role of CEO

“My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to what they do well. It’s part of our ‘Employees First’ philosophy.”

Delegation

We “make sure everybody understands that the CEO is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees openly.”

Transparency

“All HCL’s financial information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all our dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions.”

Hierarchy

“We’ve inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.”

Performance

My [the CEO’s] 360 degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees—the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results—they’re anonymous so that people are candid—are available in the internal Web [as well].”

Information-sharing

We started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which mean yours subordinates will review it. You managers will read it. Your peers will read it and everybody will comment on it.”

Feedback

Prospective employees will say “I completely disagree. And they will have a fight with me… I want people who will kick my butt on points where we disagree.

Learning

I want people to say they want to learn. I don’t want teachers.”

At first glance, the ideas of Mr. Nayar seem almost crazy, because they are so different from what we are used to. But upon deeper reflection, we can see value in much of his leadership style.

To me, this seems a testament that when a leader has no ego and is willing to think innovatively and behave with integrity, the possibilities for positive change is not bound by any box or paradigm. We need to realize that we can learn from everybody, everywhere, and with an open mind and of course some discretion, we can progress our thinking and ways of doing business in ways we may never have even imagined.


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September 30, 2009

Conflict Management and Enterprise Architecture

What is conflict?

In the book Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan, the author states “Conflict arises whenever interests collide…whatever the reason, and whatever form it takes, its source rests in some perceived or real divergence of interests.”


Why does conflict occur?


Morgan continues: “People must collaborate in pursuit of a common task, yet are often pitted against each other in competition for limited resources, status, and career advancement.”


How does conflict manifest?


The conflicting dimensions of organization are most clearly symbolized in the hierarchical organization chart, which is both a system of cooperation, in that it reflects a rational subdivision of tasks, and a career ladder up which people are motivated to climb. The fact is there are more jobs at the bottom than at the top means that competition for the top places is likely to be keen, and that in any career race there are likely to be far fewer winners than losers.”


How does User-centric EA help Manage Conflict?


Enterprise architecture is a tool for resolving organizational conflict. EA does this in a couple of major ways:

  1. Information Transparency: EA makes business and technical information transparent in the organization. And as they say, “information is power”, so by providing information to everyone, EA becomes a ‘great equalizer’—making information equally available to those throughout the organization. Additionally, by people having information, they can better resolve conflict through informed decision-making.
  2. Governance: EA provides for governance. According to Wikipedia, “governance develops and manages consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility.” As such, governance provides a mechanism to resolve conflicts, in an orderly fashion. For example, an IT Investment Review Board and supporting EA Review Board enables a decision process for authorizing, allocating, and prioritizing new IT investments, an otherwise highly contentious area for many sponsors and stakeholders in the organization.

Conflict is inevitable; however, EA can provide both information and governance to help manage and resolve conflict.


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May 16, 2008

Classification Schema and Enterprise Architecture

User-centric Enterprise architecture captures organizational information, analyzes it, and classifies it, and serves it up to the end user in useful and usable ways to enhance decision-making.

I came across a helpful article in DM Review, May 2008, called “Ontology and Taxonomy” that clarified the classification schemas used in EA.

First of all what the heck is a classification schema?

Simply put, a classification schema is a way of organizing information by putting things into categories. This helps us make sense of the information by being able to relate items to one another. For example, is an item, part of a larger supertype? Does an item has subtypes? Are items part of a common set? Is there a one to one relationship, a one to many, or a many to many? An understanding of these relationships between information helps us to understand the information and better use it for sound decision making.

Here are the two classification schema:

  1. Ontology—“includes putting things into categories and relating these categories to each other…an ontology is a model…’ontology concerns itself with the organization of knowledge’…the body of knowledge includes both class and instance.” Ontologies define relationships. In ontologies, we identify the intersection of different items with each other, so for example a man intersects with “person,” “male,” and “adult.”
  2. Taxonomy—“A taxonomy is an ontology in the form of a hierarchy.” Typically, taxonomy takes the form of a tree diagram, with parent (class) and child relationships. Taxonomies are decompositions. “For example, a parent may be automobiles and the children may be trucks, SUVS, sedans, compacts, and so on. Then the children for trucks may be pick-ups, vans, refrigerated, etc.

One of the problems with taxonomies is that you cannot easily define everything neatly into categories and subcategories, such as in cataloging a body of knowledge. For example, in the Dewey decimal system, “Where do you put a book about the history of mathematics in the Islamic world? History? Mathematics? Religion? That points out the problem with most taxonomies. Most of our knowledge is not hierarchical.”

The limitation of taxonomies is why we need to use more sophisticated ontologies such as business, data, and system models in enterprise architecture to understand the complexity of the relationship between business processes, information required to perform those, and the systems that serve those up.


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January 9, 2008

Taxonomy, Ontology, and Enterprise Architecture

The terms Taxonomy and Ontology are frequently confused; here are some basic definitions:

“Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification…Taxonomies, or taxonomic schemes, are composed of taxonomic units known as taxa (singular taxon), or kinds of things that are arranged frequently in a hierarchical structure, typically related by subtype-supertype relationships, also called parent-child relationships. In such a subtype-supertype relationship the subtype kind of thing has by definition the same constraints as the supertype kind of thing plus one or more additional constraints…Originally the term taxonomy referred to the classifying of living organisms (now known as alpha taxonomy); however, the term is now applied in a wider, more general sense and now may refer to a classification of things, as well as to the principles underlying such a classification. Almost anything — animate objects, inanimate objects, places, concepts, events, properties, and relationships — may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.”

Ontology─ “In both computer science and information science, an ontology is a data model that represents a set of concepts within a domain and the relationships between those concepts. It is used to reason about the objects within that domain. Ontologies are used in artificial intelligence, the Semantic Web, software engineering, biomedical informatics and information architecture as a form of knowledge representation about the world or some part of it. Ontologies generally describe:

  • Individuals: the basic or "ground level" objects
  • Classes: sets, collections, or types of objects
  • Attributes: properties, features, characteristics, or parameters that objects can have and share
  • Relations: ways that objects can be related to one another
  • Events: the changing of attributes or relations”

“If you did not define attributes for the concepts you would have either a taxonomy or a controlled vocabulary. These are useful, but are not considered true ontologies.” (Wikipedia)

What is the real difference between taxonomies and ontologies?

A Taxonomy is a hierarchical representation of a specific data set…Taxonomies are useful in software for navigation, in fact Amazon.com does something like this. You select "Books", and you can then select a subcategory, and drill down from there.

An Ontology is a set of concepts and the relationships between them. Concepts are nouns, and relationships are verbs. Two commonly used relationships are "is a" and "has a". Concepts have attributes, which are things that describe the concept. For instance, there is a concept "Retirement Account". An IRA is a retirement account, and a 401(k) is a retirement account. An IRA "has a" balance. A balance is itself a concept, that has a "date" attribute and an amount attribute. In computer science, these things are relevant for areas such as search and text analysis…

That is the basic difference: ontology defines concepts and how they relate, and a taxonomy is a hierarchical breakdown of items.”

(http://koolplaces.blogspot.com/2007/02/so-what-is-difference-between-taxonomy.html)

How are taxonomy and ontology used in EA?

For User-centric EA, taxonomies are useful for categorizing the elements of the enterprise into a useful and usable architecture. For example, in the business architecture, we use a taxonomy to classify our organization’s functions into core mission, mission support, and business support categories. The taxonomy adds value by providing context and depth to the information.

Additionally, ontology is necessary in enterprise architecture for identifying the relationships between elements in the architecture and for building the information repository in a relational database. For example, Systems are related to the business functions they support as well as to the underlying technologies that make up the system. The relationships between the perspectives of the architecture (performance, business, information, services, technology, security) and their elements is actually where core value from the information is derived from. Each perspective of the architecture has important information, but it is in relating the information, that deeper analysis becomes possible. For example, in a straight taxonomy of systems and applications, we may understand what systems and how many the organization has; however, when we relate those systems, for example, to functional areas, then we can see which functions have redundant systems or gaps and which are mission critical systems based on the functions they support.

The use of both taxonomy and ontology is important and necessary to structures the enterprise architecture and to analyzing it and provide meaningful findings and recommendations.


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