People have been talking about ‘flattened organizations’ for decades. There are a whole rack of examples listed in books like ‘The Living Company’ (De Geus), ‘The Future of Work’ ( Malone), and ‘GUTS’ (Freibergs).

Despite that, a great many companies and team are still struggling with finding ways of flattening themselves out. That is to be expected. Evolution involves tentative steps and experiments with new forms. Making progress, even with the wisdom of mother nature at play , is a messy process.

There is, in my opinion a few convenient myths that team-leads and team members end up using as a way of avoiding making some of the changes that make a flattened organization a realistic goal. Below I have followed each ‘myth’ with another perspective on the same point.

  • You have to change everything to change anything vs. when you change anything – you change everything.
  • It makes no difference what I do vs. I can make a difference no matter what I do.
  • I can create change without changing myself vs. All change comes from a change in the way WE are
  • The truth is out there …and it will set us free vs. the idea that there is a single ‘truth’ is itself a lie –  there is no one ‘truth’ the world is made up of many. Niels Bohr stated that there are two kinds of truth the superficial where the opposite is false and the profound truth where the opposite is also true. In ‘Getting to Maybe’ the authors use the city of Jerusalem as an example. The city means different things to at least four different faiths – most significant differences are based not on ‘hard facts’ but how they are being interpreted/perceived.
  • Self-organization does not work and leads to chaos vs. all natural systems including our own bodies use self-organization to adapt and cope with a rapidly changing environment very successfully – in comparison to our bodies a typical business organization  is very simple – as  complexity increases – hierarchy gives way more and more to hierarchy and self-organization, adaptive organizations will increasingly use a blend of these three ways of organizing work, energy and people.
  • I have no power in this system and therefore cannot change anything vs. tension resides in the paradox of , on the one hand, accepting constrained personal power and responsibility in the face of larger system dynamics & macro forces AND YET on the other hand  believing that individuals can make a difference and are responsible and acting accordingly.

If we can surface our assumtpions about making chnage we are one step closer to playing an active part in it rather than playing ‘catch-up’ all the time.