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The Role of Organizational Design in 21st Century Organizations.

The world appears to sit on proverbial tilt as a new world economy forms right before our eyes. Unemployment, underemployment, self-employment, and organizations doing more with less all seemingly come as a surprise to many. Yet, in 1990 Charles Handy in his Book the Age of Unreason predicted that less than half of the work force in the world would be in what he called proper full-time employment by the turn of the century. Fast forward to 2011 and a recent Gallup poll noted that 40% of the industrialized world was in a full time position. As the landscape of employment changes, organizations must consider structures that account for decreasing numbers of full-time employees and increasing numbers of part-time, temporary and consultant/contract labor. This alone will have a lasting and profound effect on how organizations operate.

The world is much more complicated than it was in the 19th and 20th century. Organizational design requires new approaches and innovative ways of thinking. The world is pressed on all sides by a diminishing full-time workforce, differing cultural, generational, political, and religious views and the organization of the 21st century must be more agile than its 19th and 20th century ancestors. The role of organizational design is imperative to how the organization deals with challenges it now faces.

The 21st century organizational design will require an ability to share ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational and cultural boundaries within and outside of the organizational system for the purpose of achieving desired goals. Now, for the very first time in history, we face the prospect of five differing generations operating within the workforce at one time; adding intergenerational stress and habitual problems between differing age groups. The world has become a vastly smaller place through the advent of the internet and organizations now, more than ever, are made of individuals from differing cultures and geographical locales. Understanding the effects culture such as standards of living, religion, patriotism and leadership will all have a large impact on organizations and their ability to achieve success. Organizational decision-making styles are influenced by generational and cultural attributes of the individuals from with the organizational system.

The organization structure of the future must also consider how it intrinsically motivates its followers. Organizations have considered motivational theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Alderfers ERG. Unfortunately these models create a potential deficit as they are focused only on the needs of individuals and not that of the entire organization. An organizational structure that focuses on the needs of the organization to the exclusion of the individual would undermine the organizational needs through a lack of buy-in and acceptance by the followers. The best possible scenario for a successful organizational design would champion both the intrinsic motivational needs of the individual followers while meeting the expressed needs of the organization. Thus, creating an open flexible environment that meets the needs of both is a challenge but not impossible. A more organic organizational approach would certainly satisfy both. For example, a vine has structure but is flexible and can make changes as challenges arise. Such flexibility affords the vine the ability to navigate around obstacles, yet maintain the structure required to move nutrients throughout the entire system of vine. The challenge is to translate the vine analogy into an organizational mechanism that permits an organic structure to reach specified goals. Company’s such as Proctor and Gamble, KRAFT Foods, Linux, Philips, the BBC, Nokia and Apple already utilize some a form of matrix or flexible/open organizational system in an effort to more efficiently produce products and services.

The role of organizational design in the 21st century is to find its voice in an organic, flexible system that is culturally and generationally adept, intrinsically motivates, and is flexible and open. Organizations of the future will continue to adapt and develop a spirit of learning and growth. The true role of organizational design in the 21st century is to develop adaptability, flexibility and profitability in the most efficient and effective manger available, given the resources available to it. The organization of the 21st century will focus on creativity, innovations as it develops and modifies to meet the constant changing needs of the world in which it serves. The organization of the future must acquire the acumen of flexibility to survive.

Philip A Foster, MA is a professional leadership coach with Maximum Change Inc. Taking Leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. He works with leaders to facilitate the development of  life purpose, life balance and achievement of greater success; encouraging leaders to take active and consistent steps toward reaching goals and objectives. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: philip.a.foster | (615) 216-5667

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