The way we think about organisations is broken Rik Vera - December 7, 2015

Moominsan  Organisation Broken

“You need to forget about what you know, that’s your problem.” Tyler Durden said that in `Fight Club’. He was right. (Insofar as a fictional, sleep-depravity-induced, hallucinated, split-personality character with psychopathic tendencies CAN be right.) If your surroundings have mutated completely, what you “know” becomes completely useless. Yet a lot of us are still behaving as if our world has just been slightly remodelled. Oh yes, we understand that our companies need to evolve, or we’ll be “disrupted” (the scariest word of these past few years). We are trying to fix our top-down, product-centric, highly hierarchical and purely process-driven, margin-addicted ways of thinking. But that precisely is the problem. It is not our organisations that are broken. It is the way we think (about them) that is broken. 

Society has not just changed. It has flipped. Ownership has flipped to sharing. Products became services. Talking switched to listening. Risk swapped places with opportunity. Slow-moving carefulness has shifted to high speed. Competitors twisted into partners. And that’s just a small selection of all the mutations going on around us. In the face of such a radical transformation, we should not ‘fix’ our companies. We have to redefine and redesign them. You think I’m exaggerating? I have three examples to prove it. If you can honestly say that you are not guilty of making these cognitive mistakes, then you’ll be fine. But I bet most of you will have some re-evaluation to do.

One Company. One Customer. Two Strategies…

You’re probably quite proud that, besides your ‘regular’ strategy, you have a digital strategy. In a way, you ought to because, mind-bogglingly enough, many companies still don’t take digital serious enough to elevate it to a strategic level. But mostly you shouldn’t. Because, there is no longer a boundary between digital and everything else. There is only one goal, one vision, one strategy. There is just YOU, your customers and how you can fulfil their needs. These do not differ when they are in the street, in a store or an e-shop, so why should your ‘regular’ strategy be different from your digital strategy? Just understand that digital is a redundant word. It’s like saying a “motorized car” or a “winged airplane”.

How Channels are a Bad Excuse

I’m also sure you have had (many) conversations about marketing channels in your professional life. About how they impact our interactions with the consumer. But if we step out of our biased thinking for a moment, we have to admit that channels are an irrelevant concept. There is just us and our customers. The customer does not think “Earlier today, I was chatting with my bank about an insurance product on my mobile channel and now I am calling it on my phone channel, so it’s ok if the caller does not know about what I did online”. The customer was talking to YOU. If there is one thing that annoys him is that you do not remember what he told YOU 2 hours ago. He did not tell your channel. HE told YOU. So, stop thinking in terms of cross-, multi- or omni-channel, presupposing that the concept of a channel is still relevant. They are just a bad excuse to conceal that YOU are not listening enough to your customer. There is just one conversation. One that has to be tailored to the changed customer, evolving from push to pull.

Broken Structures

Last but not least, the way we structure our companies is broken as well. Here too, it’s about letting go of those damned useless boundaries: between channels, between digital and the rest, between departments, job levels, etc. Stop compartmentalising everything in neat and `well-organised’ little silos. Stop cutting your organisation into pointless pieces. Sales, Marketing and Customer-Experience are NOT different concepts. It is frankly absurd to disintegrate all your customer efforts into poorly connected departments, often speaking with different voices. It is even worse to add an extra department or functions - like the Customer Experience Manager and the Chief Digital Marketing Officer – on top of the others each time something in your environment changes. Do not add clutter in your company structures. Simplify.

Back to Tyler Durden. Like I said, he is the hallucinated ‘friend’ of the main character in ‘Fight Club’. He’s there because the main character can’t cope with reality. Each of our (slightly) transformed organisations – that still assume the same kind of old thinking, processes and structures as before – are Tyler Durdens in some way. They look cool. They attract people. They SEEM to be true movers and shakers that will turn everything upside down. But, eventually, reality will catch up with you. It always does. Don’t wait for that moment. Stop thinking there are boundaries everywhere. And don’t try to ‘fix’ your organisation. Start figuring out how you can redesign it. Because the future of your organisation is NOT your organisation. It’s something else entirely.

So what are YOU doing to redesign your organisation to match its surroundings? I’m curious.

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Rik Vera Canva
Rik Vera

Rik is a renowned thought-leader, worldwide keynote speaker and author of business bestseller "Managers The Day After Tomorrow". He’s a trusted advisor on the topics of extreme...

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