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Reducing Organisational Drag...

One of the many challenges facing space travel is the need to drag huge tanks of chemical propellent (rocket fuel) along with you. That same fuel, of course, burns out, creating new logistics problems. Way stations, moon bases and galactic gas pumps come into the mix as possible solutions. Other scientific teams are experimenting with Ion thrusters which, in theory, go faster on less fuel, which means less drag on the space craft...

Meanwhile back on earth, large organisations and institutions which came of age in the 20th century find themselves in a bit of a stew. The world around them has changed. Connectivity and cooperation, combined with technologies and business models enable smaller, diverse teams to collaborate on endeavors faster, helping them to unlock blue oceans of value (which previously existed only in the realm of the large corporates and government bodies).

Of course the ability to connect and collaborate is just as available to the larger organisations as to the smaller ones...and some do successfully. But one of the biggest factors facing large teams is the need to pay for/fund the bureaucracy that is "needed" to power the organisation to deliver value to the customers, and to themselves.

This "drag factor" on an organisation's customer success manifests itself in a number of ways including...bad questioning or lack of insight from managers over the field teams and opaque supply chains driven by behaviours in the field of not wanting to expose (or being capable of exposing) important information on progress or resource needs. These information gathering/enriching challenges are then magnified internally by complex matrix organisations which feed themselves on terabytes of dubious spreadsheet data...which then drives the need for more internal reviews and "actions" accelerating the cannibalistic process.

Bureaucracies don't magically self-optimise themselves overnight, but they can start to stimulate more self-awareness to understand their own drag/contribution on the field teams that produce the revenues or provide services to the public which sustain them. Managers need field training and exposure to current customers as well as the field teams. Getting out of the building and understanding jobs-to-be-done concepts are part of the puzzle...interpreting and effectively responding to those experiences, and challenging their own management and matrix-musketeers to become more customer centric is the other.

Tapping into the vast resources of R&D, existing customers, partnerships and supply chains often requires an organisation to get out of its own way, in effect warping time and space between those valuable resources and the extended field teams and customers that need them. One way to obviate those layers of bureaucratic fat is to put them on a corporate diet of being exposed to more customer face time, delivering seminars to business schools and participating in business modeling workshops with start-ups. These and other tools should be part of the curriculum for all people in management positions which can impact field decisions/customer success.

Another part is the application of technology. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) will become a key tool in reducing organisational drag. Organisations and ecosystems can already use machine learning to design the optimum organisation in the form of generative design. These algorithms can be fed all of the relevent performance criteria, organisational data, incentive plans and data related to the markets they currently operate in as well as potential ones.

Using generative design techniques (trained with as little human bias as possible) the A.I. would then suggest the optimum organisation structure, incentives and processes to capitalise on the evolving market situations (potentially scary stuff). This output can then be visualised and manipulated by management using Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) tools to run simulations and test their assumptions...and figure out ways to bridge the gap between where they are now and where the A.I. is suggesting they move.

Generative design combined with AR/VR will increasingly be used by management and HR departments to optimise large organisations. Business schools and Executive MBA courses should start to build organisational generative design into their curricula.

If we can reduce drag on a spaceship bound for Mars then we can certainly do it for an organisation on terra firma. Its time to science things out a bit...

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