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Two operating systems in organizations
Dealing with high complexity
Increasing uncertainty and growing complexity of the environment and markets is forcing companies to deal with the aspects of instability, creativity and agility. Traditional management alone is no longer sufficient for success. Organisations increasingly need two “operating systems”, one for optimisation and one for change. In human resource departments, the ability to operate successfully in both modes is called ambidextry. By ambidextry we understand a new form of ” two-handedness”, which enables managers to master stable and unstable phases of the company.
Management – a first aspect of ambidextry
How companies operate successfully under relatively stable conditions is an open secret. Both the organizational form and the management competencies are clear and usually brought to a certain perfection. We call this “classic management”. Managers have learned these competencies in leadership seminars and leadership training courses over the past decades. The organizational form and the management system form the basis for the operating system under stable conditions.
Agility – a second aspect of ambidextry
When the environment is increasingly permeated by change, uncertainty, contradictions and complexity (due to increasing interconnectedness and density in the markets), an operating system for stability can no longer solve the relevant problems. In this case, the organisation needs an alternative for problem solving and managers need complementary skills to provide answers to new questions. We need to develop a second operating system that can be used to respond to the challenges of the “VUCA world” (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). Usually, at the level of the organization, this is referred to as “agile organization”. For managers it is about new forms of leadership, often also called “agile leadership” or “transformational leadership”. From organizational form and leadership system for unstable times, the second operating system emerges.
The challenges of developing both operating systems and building the skills for managers are the central task for the human resource departments. Accordingly, I can offer you two central support services:
- Organizational consulting for the development of a “viable organization” that can deal with stable and unstable conditions.
- Development of the leadership competence “Ambidextry”. From my point of view, the focus is on how managers can deal with complexity and uncertainty.
The viable system model for organisations
There is an organizational model that has been developed for processing high complexity. The “Viable System Model (VSM)” was developed by the management cyberneticist Stafford Beer in the 1960s. Today the model is experiencing a renaissance and is traded as the basic model for agile forms of organization. The model offers the great advantage that it is very adaptable to the hierarchy and, depending on the interpretation, the agile forms of organization and leadership can be adopted more or less intensively.
It offers the possibility to introduce the new organization in smaller steps and adapted to the possibilities. Where hierarchy and bureaucracy currently form the main form of organization, the Viable System Model can be used to dock and facilitate the transition to ambidextry.
Leadership under high complexity
I am approaching the new leadership through the scientifically confirmed “transformational leadership”. It goes without saying that this also means agile leadership. However, “agile leadership” is currently a huge playing field of consulting and training approaches and a market for opinions, which also involves many confusing theses. When we approach ambidextry in leadership on the core issue of dealing with complexity, we are treading safe paths. In addition, the concept of transformational leadership offers a good basis for devoting oneself to leadership in unstable times.
My concrete offers for you as HR responsible
The aim is to create a flexible and creative organization that is capable of dealing with complex challenges of change.
- Strategy retreats and workshops on ambidextry: Common ground on terminology. Check: Where do we already stand? Where are our starting points? Where should we set new priorities?
- Organizational diagnosis and organizational design with the “Viable System Model”. Joint development of first steps and concrete ways in the implementation and development of the “two operating systems” and an organizational form that can master complexity.
- Managing complexity with a stakeholder workshop (stakeholder dialogue) according to the system: “requisite variety” / Team Syntegration / Syntegration according to Stafford Beer
Management and Leadership Development
The goal is to successfully implement a management development program that enables managers to understand the competence of ambidextry and learn it in a practical way.
- Retreads and workshops with the HR department to clarify the needs and to develop an implementation concept for ambidextry in leadership.
- Implementation of a management development programme. Here I can implement the entire program with a professional team of trainers. If required, university support and confirmation is also possible, which I can organise as part of my teaching (UniForLife of the University of Graz).
- In implementation, I offer dual training concepts that combine classroom training and digital forms of learning (blended learning). For this purpose I use the learning platform BLINK.it.
- Elaboration of a new management development strategy with a strong focus on “learning by doing” (or “learning on the job”), using digital learning for knowledge transfer and devoting classroom training more to joint problem-solving and dialogue.
Taking the first steps
I am available for an initial interview and for a first short workshop to clarify the cooperation and further steps.
This post is also available in: German