Life in Organizations LO9676

Bill Fulkerson (
Mon, 02 Sep 1996 08:33:48 -0500

Reply to Life in Organizations LO9642...

Rol states that ....

Quote:There have been a number of comments about poorly functioning
systems being the result of bad intentions or misplaced intentions of
individuals. Most of my experience -- more than 70% -- with dysfunctional
systems was with systems that at one time worked fine and did exactly what
they were supposed to do, until the environment changed.[snipped] Then,
some time later, the environmen changed, and as a direct consequence, the
system became either mildly or radically dysfunctional. END_QUOTE.

Rol's comments make sense. In the past an organization's purpose was
assummed to be either constant or to be changing slowly enough that
continuous change was sufficient for the organization to survive and
succeed. Changing technology has a role to play as well. If I understand
Alvin Toffler's comments on C-SPAN recently, he argues that hierarchies
were efficient organization structures when communication technology was
limited. Now, the rapid rate of change and the effect of positive forward
feedback loops made possible by modern digital communication technology
has made network organizational structures more efficient than

Some of us describe these networks as complex adaptive systems. However,
this recognition has yielded few published results in the design of
enterprise level adaptive network strutures. Adaptive Enterprise Design:
The Sense-and-Respond Model, by Stephan H. Haeckel (Planning Review,
May/June 1995, pages 6-13and 42) has prompted me to think about the need
for designing cecentralized control and adaptation (change) into network
organizational structure.

Haeckel contrasts the new (sense-and-respond) with the former
(make-and-sell) method of operation. A make-and-sell company strives for
high-volume/low-cost mass production and measures effectiveness in terms
of efficiency and predictability. A sense-and-respond company invests in
mass customization capability to produce a high volume of low-cost "snap
together" offerings from modular elements in response to unique customer
requests. He asserts that .... "The framework within which people act must
be relaxed - but not eliminated. And to ensure that these empowered
sub-systems interact coherently, the context for the system must be
embedded in the operations of the business. It's not enough, at least in
large firms, for senior management to create and communicate a vision or
strategic intent. The level of executive frustration about poor execution
is testimony to the fact that "Communicate and Hope" is not an adequate
replacement for Command and Control."

Good Stuff.

Bill Fulkerson


Bill Fulkerson <>

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