Leading tomorrow’s organizations

Leading tomorrow’s organizations

Throughout history, human groups have organized themselves around the concept of a leader with varying levels of authority. Societies have been ruled by leaders who exerted their authority within a more or less ambiguous organizational framework based on a combination of generally accepted norms, rules, and regulations. As innovation, and hence advancement, continued, previous assumptions about the organization of social groups became inefficient and even obsolete at certain points, needing to be improved upon or replaced by new models.

In the Information Age, we are on the cusp of a powerful tipping point at which organizational assumptions are being challenged like no other time before. The advancement of technology, particularly in bringing increased computing power and hyper-connectivity, has created a new playing field that will oust the organizations that cannot reform accordingly from the game. All our working assumptions about organizations therefore need to be revisited.

What needs to be done in order to build organizations of the future is much greater than digitalizing institutional functions or streamlining processes to eliminate inefficiencies; we need to reform in totality. This involves redesigning the architecture of the organization, a redefinition of people’s roles and interactions within organizations – and particularly that of leadership – as well as among suppliers and customers. If the fundamental human dimension is not addressed properly, no amount of rational models, incentive schemes, or state of the art technologies will succeed in motivating organizations to achieve their missions.

New opportunities have amplified the gains and are poised to change the balance of power in favor of sharing within and among organizations. This is the reason why organizations need a purpose that is above and beyond making profits. That purpose will unite people together, sharing and fighting together for that common cause. For instance, Apple’s purpose of “making products for the people who think differently and want to change the world” and Google’s mission to “liberate all sort of information and make it available to everyone” are good examples of meaningful purposes that empowered both of these companies to unite their respective organization’s power and focus on beating formidable competitors. When people have faith in their organization’s purpose and their fellow colleagues, they will be motivated to work for more than just material gains.

Unfortunately, today’s leadership is now more about instigating reform within people than managing functional executions towards a common purpose. Leadership is still a matter of how to be, not how to do. Instead, leaders need to focus on facilitating environments that inspire people and they should act in parallel with the values that are promoted. It is the leader’s responsibility to choose the road map and the pace that will keep the organization functioning, by observing the delicate balance in changing the organizational assumptions and people’s expectations in the change process.

So, how can we encourage the transition to a more participatory, entrepreneurial organizational structure on a wider scale? Rather than a “delegation” of tasks, a more autonomous system should be designed in which individuals may claim to participate for tasks and setting goals.

We need to organize work and projects into stand-alone functions. These functions need to be classified into categories that require different sets of skills and competences. Employees can be trained and certified to be eligible for one or more function categories. The assignment of specific functions to people can be carried out in the spirit of the free market whereby the project initiator and eligible candidates collectively determine the terms in an open bidding process.

Positions should not be created by bundling functions, as this is contrary to the uniqueness of people. Standard job specifications demotivate and disengage people. Only the freedom to decide to grow at our own pace and contribute according to our own will can bring out the best in us. Disassembling the function-position-person trilogy will be the fundamental leap forward in the design of knowledge organizations.  

Korhan Kurdoğlu is the chairman of the board of ATA Holding. This is an abridged version of the original article in Turkish Policy Quarterly’s Summer 2014 issue. For more information, visit turkishpolicy.com.