Flexarchy - shifting the balance

Hierarchy Jul 2, 2021

The familiar management structure from the twentieth century is hierarchy. And even now in the twenty first century, the Taylorism based practices are still running wild.

However, the nature of work has changed. Especially in the heavily cognitive technology work that drives much of the top industry domains today. And cognitive work needs better engagement of these creative humans who work in these organizations. And the answer is more human centered practices and a shift to management through leadership

Twenty first century management is through leadership

What exactly is this change? This is a change driven by right-brain abstraction rather than by left-brain desire for control and order. Feminist thinking over brute masculinity. Oriental practices over overt North American hierarchy practices. And finding the balance between all these together, all at the same time. I call this Flexarchy.  Flexible hierarchy.

Culture building is such a delicate affair. East Asian and Oriental practices prevail in practices like Agile, Lean, Scrum and Kanban. And this culture clash between team based and delegated decision-making and hierarchy based top-down decision control is a key difference in how these systems of work, work. No wonder the clash of the cultures and from it reduced and lack luster performances with the use of these values and principles, methods, tools and techniques.

So, what is the answer? Many an Agile Coach push full-scale "Agile" implementations and with terms and made-up approaches labelled "Business Agility" that force these cultural practices into organizations. A recipe for large scale failure due to the clash of cultures. Also, a brute force shift to "agility" for agility sake that shifts the power balance to the "teams" might lead to large scale anarchy and lackluster organizational performance at best and down-the-tube performance at worst.

There are only two real options. An organization level change to these practices whole sale. And this is generational change and not going to happen. The second one is to do a combination of team based delegated decision making in product teams and leave the rest of the organization to catch up over a period of time.

So the need for balance. Let's face it. Hierarchy is never going to go away. An organization as a business is to take-advantage in the marketplace in a certain market segment. And within these organizations there will be some people who will hold sway to take top level decisions. The balance between giving the breathing room for the creative cognitive teams in Product development and the rest of the organization is a necessary compromise to start playing a better game.


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