Distributed, Connected, Collective
In today’s world we are struggling with adapting to rapid change. Everything is moving so fast that we are seeking ways and methods to cope with it. Nevertheless, developing new methods and executing them is not enough as these will become obsolete as soon as they are effective. As expressed in the "Digital Business Continuum" section in our recent Thought Leadership publication Journey 2022, organizations need to be constantly adapting to change and to the rapid advancement of technology if they want to thrive in today’s disruptive market.
But how can you be constantly adapting to change in a monolithic organizational structure? This is probably the main question that traditional organizations should address.
Digital native example
Various models from the digital native companies can be taken as examples. Let’s take here the example of relying on autonomous small teams organized in an objective/principle-based structure. Teams are taking decisions and actions in their defined territory which is mostly given against objectives. If you define it mainly based on processes, you may generate so much constraints that it negatively impacts their agility.
The Swarm vision
As we elaborate in the section "Swarm and Edge Computing" in Journey 2022, deciding centrally on every event increases the complexity with incredible load on central systems, as well as the latency due to data transport to remote locations. Swarm thus defines distributed, connected systems and collectively decides on tasks to provide specified outcomes, in their own specified territory.
Implementing this vision within organizations presents technical issues as well as organizational and cultural challenges.
The main challenges raised by the Swarm vision include exponentially increased communication needs that goes hand in hand with the requirement for new security paradigms. Indeed, it is clear that traditional networking approaches cannot help us in an efficient way. As highlighted in our “Future of Work” chapter, to answer this, organizations must consider new workplace approaches - through the “anytime, anywhere, any device” paradigm supported by extended collaboration and communication technologies. As organizations’ innovation capability – targeting continuous innovation - rely on autonomous teams’ decisions, Swarm efficiency relies on decisions made on the edge.
A problem of culture
One minor difference between these two ideals is how we define the purpose. In Swarm it may seem relatively easy to define outcomes but in traditional organizations building a purpose-based structure is -in a politically correct way- a bit tricky.
If "culture eats strategy for breakfast", we need an extended focus on culture as it is the source of some of the dilemmas.