Belgian royal conservatory's dome, interior with sun. (c) E. Forrest Christian

Organizations are the ultimate cross-functional team

Forrest Christian Governance, Managing, Reviews - Books, Theory Leave a Comment

From Brown and Duguid’s The Social Life of Information

Well, duh.

Wish I had thought of that. The current cry for “cross-functional teams” results from the inability of the organization to manage its divisions. The local divisions will occur in any group that gets larger than about 12. Put fifty people in a church even and you will get a set of groups; cliques, if you will. And these are people who see each other only sporadically during the week. You work with your coworkers all week long. You are going to develop subgroups within the organization. It is the job of management to enable the cross-pollination of ideas. I’m not sure what the mechanisms of that are. I know that you need to have the right people, and the right people in the right place. Part of that involves Requisite Organization. Part of it involves other issues of “fit”.

Mark Van Clieaf’s recent articles in CA Magazine and Ivey Business Journal (among others) on the problems of corporate governance play into this. The association of shareholders, represented by the Board of Directors, hold the CEO accountable. The CEO is the nexus between association and hierarchy, the all important link. No one else works for the shareholders; they work for the hierarchy. The CEO must be high enough in capability (see his articles) but is currently not, held accountable to the shareholders to short-term (2-3 year) goals. Shareholders must trust their representative leaders (fund managers?) to keep the company focused on long term goals in order to increase return. I think. Because the CEO is not accountable for this complex set of interactions, they often cannot perform the role of negotiating the interplay between competing divisions within the organizations. Thereby opportunities are lost to the inertia necessary to organizations — we who live in constant change can tell you who don’t that you really, really don’t want it: the inertia of your firm keeps you on track. But those whose roles require them to see farther must hold that trust and do so. Which means that we have to put people in that role who can.

Because Organizations are the killer app.

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