Organizational Structure Is Imaginary
I received this question via Twitter last night:
It’s a good question. Decentralization certainly sounds like a structural issue, and that is a part of it. But I put more of it into culture. In Humanize, decentralization is the cultural part of being Open (Chapter 6). And the reason for this almost startled me when I thought of it:
Organizational structure is imaginary.
It is literally all in our heads. There are no literal structures in an organizational structure. The organizational structure only becomes real when people take actions and speak or write words that are consistent with our imagined structure. In Humanize, we refer to that as the “walk” and “talk” of culture. It’s how you do it and how you describe it and talk about it. That’s where structure becomes real.
So structure and culture are basically married. Changing one generally means changing the other. But if you say decentralization is “mainly” about changing the structure, then you’re implying that the biggest challenge is changing your mind, and I’m disagreeing with that. I think the “work” of decentralizing is going to be more in figuring out what to DO differently to extend decision making, voice, and actions to the periphery and away from the center. That’s mostly work on the culture.