Configuration Options

For one, there’s the normal stuff that you’ll find in the OD texts:

At the macro level, we can organize according to Functions, Products, Geographies or a mix of all.

We can connect teams and people via Matrices (e.g. dual reporting), Vertical Hierarchies, or Networks. The latter gets either very little play or outright shade in most traditional OD texts. Time plays a part here – it would have been silly even in like ~2005 to suggest that an organization of any meaningful scale could be configured as an autonomous network of operating units.

Going beyond that to get closer to the work:

  • Our teams can be staffed by a single discipline (like a “Center of Excellence”) or by folks covering many, disparate disciplines (like a startup, an innovation team, or a matrixed working group).

  • Those groups can be Real Teams, or some other alternative. We can have workgroups that resemble teams but are actually independent actors who happen to report to a single person or a steerco. We can have Chapters and Guilds – as popularized by Spotify – that bring interested or similarly skilled people, respectively, together across different parts of the organization.

  • The people in those teams can come from a single firm, from multiple different firms, or a mesh of firms and individual people. Something that doesn’t come up much in the OD process but definitely should are configurations that are energized by people, firms, autonomous/semi-autonomous agents, and other APIs, tools, etc.

Each of these configurations demands different ways of working, different sets of tools and techniques. The configurations are informed by different firm or team orientations. Seeing these as a system, with many more variations across a business, is a critical mindset shift for everyone involved.

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