How should we think about Organizations?

Before we get into the work of improving organizations, we should have a collective understanding of what an organization is.

Here’s my definition.

The organization is an economic device and embodied idea for achieving a shared purpose that requires the work of many people.

An organization’s boundaries are best defined by purpose and participation. While important, W-9s do not define who is in and out of the organization: shared purpose and active participation do a better job of this task. An organization is fueled by the time, attention and/or money provided by the people who perform or make use of the organization’s work. I’d argue that this even includes customers, suppliers, and stakeholders! Lastly, it is structured by the relationships between the organization and its participants, and within the participant group.

To use a framing from D’Arcy Thompson, an organization is a diagram of the forces that surround it.

How should we think about Operating Models?

Summarizing Amy Kates – one of the most important thinkers in the org design world – an operating model is a shared idea that helps “shape human behavior at the group level.” In Kates’ world, an operating model is made up of three interlocking elements: Ambition, Blueprint, and Integration.




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