From Inside to Outside: How do new organizations work?

This conversation has come up often enough in the last few months that it warrant’s a post. Most recently with Mark Kuzniki and Tom. If an Enterprise 2.0 and a Consulting 2.0 model are going to emerge that can actually change existing organizations, it is critical to see the major separation of work between the different levels of an organization.

Part of getting to Consulting 2.0 (ok, calling it Consulting 2.0 was a joke, which I have to stop now, as I am sure it is being taken far too seriously) is the ability to understand who is capable of working on what parts/projects within an organization to have the best possible outcome.

This is a more difficult problem than it might sound at first because of the nature of the work. I’m not sure we have the solution yet, or perhaps I am just looking at the problem from the wrong angle?

The first problem is that the final outcome is a different organization than the initial state of the organization. It is not just a more efficient, bigger or simply better organization, both culturally and structurally there should be a change of shape, and as the organization shifts, the group of consultants will have to understand that shift and be able to connect their work meaningfully all along that story-line.

The second problem is that, as a law, consultants, teammates (or whatever it is called in the end), see the entire process as emergent. That is, there are no laws to tell us how the work gets done, or how the organization must change. Every example is a theory, not a rule or process that can easily be reapplied. Instead, we begin to develop a pattern language. The best consultants will share this pattern language, and instead of a rule book, a gospel will emerge. A set of stories that hold the real power of a new world and model. The implication is that every post we make, and every conversation we have is simply a step on the way to finding out what is really happening, it is not an attempt to define the target, simply the direction.

3stages_4.pngSo, where do we start? Here is a theory, tempered with some small experience.

The Internal Organization (1) is the current nucleus of culture and process in a lost organization. It is The Organization, Inc. and it is most often caught up in the “work” of running the larger organization.

Partners, Suppliers, Researchers (2) are the people on whom the organization depends to gain it’s reach and breadth of services/products. For many organizations, “innovation” is beginning to be an output of (2). This is an example of how the world is changing, but if the model stops there, it is flawed.

Customers (3) are the gateway. In a typical organization right now, there is no third circle on our picture, Customers are drawn and arrows are put down to demonstrate that money comes from the customer and into the organization. In a new organization, it is the customer that encompasses the entire organization, and they they gateway to new customers. The implication is that instead of being bounded by your internal organization, by your partners, or by your marketing budget (the arrows) you are now bounded by the market (your customers) who are now able to contribute the necessary amount of inputs into the formula to justify their place as the third circle. Right now we have “viral marketing”, “consumer generated content” and variations like Pinko Marketing. These are not what I am talking about however. Having your customers tell each-other about your service is very different from creating a new product or service based on what your customers are telling you. This is also different than asking your customers for input. In the new model, customers are not an input to a process, they drive the entire process.

How does this affect the new world of Consulting (The Consulting Counter Culture)?

My guess is that in the beginning, three separate efforts will need to be begin together.

The first piece is a cultural and process focused piece of work on the Internal Organization to help this nucleus open up to outsiders in a real sense.

The second is to build trust between the Internal Organization (1) and Partners, Suppliers (2) to a level of co-dependence, not the artificial separation that most have today.

This creates the space for the third piece of work, which addresses the need to engage and assimilate the customer (3), in a real way, as the factor that directs the success of the organization.

This is, however, a guess at a best-case scenario, and in observance of the law of emergence, you can only work with what you have. If you have three people who are focused on the customer, then you must begin there and work in, or you can work from the internal organization outward. One thing is for certain, groups of consultants will have to work together to accomplish this work, as it is too much for a single person, and a traditional consulting org. can’t address these problems either, for the reasons outlined before.

I have a feeling that Rob’s upcoming book, Trusted Space, will open the gateway to the mechanics of how these pieces get put together.

5 thoughts on “From Inside to Outside: How do new organizations work?

  1. As much as I like product development to be based on customer input, there is a crucial exception: when the product/service represents a new way of doing things. For instance, Henry Ford is reputed to have said that “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.” Of course, once the first automobiles are in the hands of actual customers, then it’s time to start listening to them. But even then it’s important to note that these early adopters do not necessarily represent the needs/wants of the mass market. If the first automobile users are all strong men who don’t mind hand-cranking the engine, they might not request an electric starter. To summarize, there is often still a need for vision and leadership.

  2. Hi Jevon,

    One could say that a lot of this has been happening in the consulting world for some time, though it has not been too effective. Apart from this, I think the idea of integrating partners, vendors, customers into the dialogue is a nice thing … Though, it would depend on the amount of trust … how well they are able to work with each other. Web 2.0 is not changing human nature. it is changing the way we work.

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