The way many companies are managed and organized is based on management models developed from the mid-20th century. Those models are, in turn, based on organizational development during the industrial revolution. In the traditional management view, a strategy is established by the management of the organization and the organization then implements this strategy.
The strategy becomes a multi-year plan and is divided into clear sections of a month or a quarter, so that the results can be used to regularly check whether the company is still on track.
If the results are not satisfactory, the operation is adjusted to realize the strategy. Perhaps people need to be replaced, we need to talk to suppliers again, review the organizational structure…
What such organizational models, often implicitly, assume is that the strategy is correct. If the results are not according to plan, the implementation must be adjusted.
Direct & Control
We could call this the “Direct & Control” system: the strategy is determined by the board. The organization is instructed and periodically checked whether the implementation of the strategy is going according to plan.
This way of organizing will encounter few problems, as long as the economy and the markets in which your company operates develop and grow predictably. If there are not too many “disruptive” events, you compete with your competitors for the favor of your customers. A fun and exciting game.
Why this is no longer sufficient
Our world is in motion on all fronts, probably more intense, fiercer and more global than ever: geopolitical dynamics, (macro)economic unpredictability and global events (pandemics, terrorism) challenge companies to find answers to new issues and dilemmas. Many sectors are disrupted because new competitors can operate smarter, faster, more agile and cheaper with the help of technology.
Companies need to mobilize all their capabilities and creativity to anticipate these changes and realize their ambitions. This requires more self-management in operations. Because traditionally managed organizations make little or no use of this ability, they are less able to respond quickly and in a timely manner, let alone anticipate, in the complex dynamics of strategic issues that confront them.
From “Direct & Control” to “Sense & Respond”
In responsive organizations, change takes place in an organic way. For them, the strategy is not the unshakable plan to be executed by the organization. Steve Jobs, the legendary founder of Apple, spoke about this when he said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to to , We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Responsive organizations are highly aware of their potential and have a convincing vision and powerful ambition. Their way of organizing and managing ensures that employees are inspired to get moving and shape developments together. The interaction of people in these organizations is more important than the plans. Operation and strategy are closely intertwined and the connection between people is stronger. Autonomy is invested as low as possible in the organization.
As a result, responsive organizations are better able to anticipate and respond to developments and events in their environment. They are more sensitive to them and use more creativity to solve their problems. As a result, they learn, develop and grow faster.
Would you like to know more about responsive organizations?
Do you want to learn how you can transform your organization to become (more) responsive? Download our free whitepaper Responsive Organizations here and discover how your organization can become more agile, happier and more successful.