Time for a New Operating System?
A couple of years ago, Aaron Dignan and his team mates at The Ready set out on a mission to create a new tool. Something that could take a complex organizational system and make it a practical playground for imagining and implementing a new way of working. The result? A nine part canvas that represents a useful framework for redesigning your company's operating system.
Highlights from the Article
Leaders in every industry struggle with similar problems e.g. the need for better productivity, more innovation, better decision-making, more individual accountability, better communication, simplified processes, more agility and adaptability, better client/customer service, etc. Regardless of the business or organization, you don’t have to look very long to find evidence of some or all of these challenges.
What’s needed is organizational transformation which has, up to this point, proven to be very difficult to successfully pull off. The trouble stems (at least in part) from the fact that we still look at organizations mechanistically. Have a speed problem? Let’s pop the hood and see which part needs replacing. But organizations are not that linear. They are complex human systems that require a completely different metaphor. They are more akin to organisms, ecosystems, or networks. Interconnected, dynamic, emergent, and ever-changing.
When faced with that level of complexity and uncertainty, we tend to oversimplify. The people say, “We have the wrong leaders!” And the leaders say, “We have the wrong people!” The culture remains. But, here’s the good news: The problem isn’t your leaders or your people. It’s your operating system.
Like our technology, organizations run on code. But this code isn’t made of ones and zeroes. It’s made of principles and beliefs, practices and rules. This DNA is so pervasive, unquestioned, and deeply held that we don’t even notice it. It manifests in concepts like:
Everyone needs a boss. Executives should have offices. Budgets should be done annually. Leaders decide the strategy. Designers should sit with designers. Conference rooms have a table and chairs. Hourly workers should punch a time clock. People need incentives.
Really? Is that all actually true or is that just what we do?
The concepts above are code. Simple rules. Foundational architecture. Put together, they represent an organizational operating system - upon which everything runs. And amazingly, this OS isn’t even one that we chose - it’s one that we inherited.
Indeed, the vast majority of our most important institutions in business, philanthropy, and government are running on an OS that was designed over 100 years ago by Frederick Taylor and his contemporaries. His big idea was to separate the thinking from the doing, measure everything, and try to make everything (and everyone) as controllable, predictable, and efficient as possible. And for a long time it worked. Corporations grew. Standard of living rose. The manager was truly the master of the universe.
Then complexity happened. Globalization. The Internet. Mobile. Startups making billions just a few years out of the garage. Black Swan events like the financial crisis. Interconnectedness and volatility at unprecedented levels. Slowly but surely, an OS designed for efficiency and the compliance of an unthinking workforce became woefully outdated. And yet we have done very little to change the way we work and organize. We are running the organizational equivalent of MS-DOS, but it’s 2018.
There are signs of hope. More and more companies are abandoning the old way in search of the new. And leaders around the globe are finally ready to accept that their organization’s ability to adapt, innovate, grow, and remain resilient (or even antifragile) in the face of change hinges on the deliberate design of their operating system.
The Gifted Perspective
If you’re ready to redesign your businesses operating system, the OS Canvas will help you be intentional about the process. It will direct you to consider certain key aspects of your organization more deeply than you typically would.
Specifically, you’ll look at nine areas: Structure & Space, Authority & Decisions, Information & Communication, Policy & Governance, Purpose & Values, Meetings, Rhythm & Coordination, Strategy & Innovation, Resource Allocation, Targets & Forecasts, and People, Development & Motivation.
The very last page of the article offers a step-by-step agenda for a 90-minute work session that is particularly useful for helping you convene an initial conversation with your team!
We will partner with you and your team to coach, consult, support, and encourage you through the process of redesigning your operating system. Contact us today about individual leadership coaching or our Teams That Talk™ coaching approach!