Tuesday 23 June 2015

A whole new kind of organisation emerging

Something peculiar is happening to organisations at the moment.

On the one hand, they are becoming bigger, increasingly complex and decreasingly effective, juggling multiple objectives and tens – sometimes hundreds of target figures and KPIs.  On the other hand, there is a sense – which I think most of us will recognise – that we can’t go on like that.

That something new is beginning to emerge. Not just organisations that suit human beings, but organisations that are considerably more effective.

In days gone by, the business of presiding over the environment, for example, fell to ministries, local authorities and a number of strange Whitehall quangos.  Directives came from on high. People jumped. Or didn’t jump.

They still do to a large extent, but conflicting interests stay unresolved - and often the job isn't done.  Those with enthusiasm were excluded, and they assume nobody needed them.

But look around you and you'll find new kinds of organisations - time banks, local area co-ordinators, friends of parks, coastal forums - and they are a glimpse of the future.

They are multi-stakeholder to use the jargon. Flat, non-hierarchical. Seeking out people’s energy and using it. The bottom line for me is that they are human.

I think this is how you recognise these new organisations:

1. They are generalist not specialist.

2. They are facilitators. They don’t tell people what to do – they start from what people around them want to achieve and help them do it.

3. They are non-hierarchical

That, at least, is what I said on Portland Bill last week at the celebration of 20 years of the Dorset Coast Forum.

And it turns out that the Dorset Coast Forum is a prime example of what I was talking about. It is a collaborative venture, owned by all the different organisations which deal with the coastline – from tourist ventures and fishing businesses to the RNLI.

They were proposed by the government as a 'forum of consensus' two decades ago, aware that they might not be able to resolve tensions between rival uses - but they could at least make sure they got a clear idea of the others' points of view.

Other projects have emerged since, involving people who want to be in the business of keeping the beaches clean - using the energy that's out there.  It is also hugely influential abroad - and it is being copied from the Dolomites to the South China Seas.

The conference was in an impressive place and I learned a huge amount, and have begun to alter my own opinions about the direction organisations are going in as a result.  It did set out some of these ideas in principle back in 2011 in The Human Element, but I realise now that it was actually happening already - and underneath my nose!

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