Friday 18 October 2019

Leading and managing the MOE

This is my fourth and final post on Arthur Yeung and Dave Ulrich’s new book, Reinventing the Organization. I’ve already dealt with Dave’s new organisational logic, the features of a Market Oriented Ecosystem (MOE) and the process for creating a MOE. The rest of the book deals with the consequences of choosing a MOE option.

The HR aspects of the model are dealt with by the book under the governance heading. Personally, I think these aspects provide more than just governance of the structure - many of them are actually a central part of the organisation form. Culture, in particular, is a key aspect of the ecosystem platform.

Arthur and Dave suggest HR activities will need to be tailored to a MOE and I agree. I actually think that we may need to do more tailoring than he or the case studies suggest. Eg Supercell is heavily focused on teams but they still believe “that one exceptional person equals a hundred ordinary people”. Perhaps it depends on what they mean by exceptional, but they certainly would benefit from recruiting people who can fit well within their teams (which many individualistic superstars often struggle to do). I make more suggestions about this in The Social Organization (TSO).

I’d also have liked to read more about the complexities involved in designing a non-MOE / more distributed ecosystem. These include, for example, how to bring partners with different capabilities together to support the overall capabilities of the ecosystem, and how to handle organisations with different cultures. However, in a MOE these difficulties are largely stripped out by the platform.

There are also some good suggestions on leadership, eg I agree that leadership in an ecosystem needs to be much more distributed than in a traditional organisation. But it’s interesting that they single out Lee Kuan Yew as a leader who ensures accountability. And I can see that this type of authoritarian leader might work well in a centralised MOE. Other more distributed ecosystems will need leaders who are much more consultative and democratic than this.

I also think Arthur and Dave begin an interesting point when they suggest that different types of leaders are required by the platform from the cells. Actually, for me, this is about the network and the cells - the platform needs designing and maintaining, but not leading, as opposed to the people and the network between the people which exists on or uses the platform.

And I think in many MOEs and other ecosystems and organisations, we’re going to need even more different types of leaders, including of networks and cells / horizontal teams, and also of communities and as is most commonly the case currently, of individuals working within functions. However, I do disagree that this should have anything to do with age.

I also think that in many cases, it’s going to be the same people working in various combinations of these different roles. So it may be that they are staffed by different people, but it may also be that the same people need to act differently in different capacities, eg when leading horizontal teams as opposed to when they’re leading communities.

Eg one of my recent posts discussed the challenges faced by people moving between project management and project member positions. I think if we’re asking people to shift between team leadership, network leadership, partner leadership and other roles the challenges are going to be much bigger than this.

I may focus on this agenda in my next book…

Also, I sent Dave a copy of the series before posting them, and he sent me this response which you may be interested in too:

"Response to Jon Ingram

Let me begin my response to Jon’s comments with an apology and a thanks.  In our book Reinventing the Organization we wanted to build on and synthesize previous literature on innovating organizations.  We included 12 initiatives to rethink elements of organizations (network, ambidextrous, post hierarchy, holocracy, agile, ameba, team of teams, etc).  Clearly, we did not include all of these studies, and we missed Jon’s “outstanding” (from my foreword) book The Social Organization.  This was my mistake and we should have included a discussion of his work on platforms which is another piece of the broader market oriented ecosystem (MOE) logic we proposed. 

Our goal was not to just do a book on “organization redesign” (or other elements of reinvention) with a focus on platforms and capabilities (2 chapters in book) but to cover the entire organization reinvention logic, including environment, strategy, integrated governance mechanisms, and leadership  (13 chapters).  So, I apologize to Jon for not including his organization design work.  I am sure we missed insights on elements of the reinvented organization as well (as Jon points out).  Again, we see most of the insights Jon points out are elements of the overall organization reinvention logic. I also want to thank Jon for his insights on organization design. 

Jon disagrees with some of our logic, which is fine.  We like to see pivots from one organization logic to another (hierarchy to systems to capability to market oriented ecosystem).  This means that MOE builds on these previous logic, but evolves them.  We did not make this clear and some organizations still operate as hierarchies, systems, or internal capabilities.  But, in an increasingly turbulent environment (chapter 2) and with strategic agility (chapter 3), the MOE organization offers a new logic of organizing. 

There is a good debate about starting organization change from the inside (my book Organization Capability had a subtitle, “competing from the inside out”) to leverage core competencies versus starting from the outside (our book HR from the Outside in) to anticipate and respond to external changes.  In some ways where organization change starts (inside or outside) is less relevant than the 2 are connected. 

Jon dives deep into the role of platforms.  We would agree that the role of platforms in supporting cells is evolving.  Platforms offer support through technology, common enterprise-wide values, shared learning about building capabilities, and creation and distribution of new processes. 

I am/we (arthur and I) are open to debate as this organization reinvention emerges.  One of my concerns with Jon’s comments is that he keeps talking about “Dave” when these ideas are clearly drawn from exceptional work by Arthur Yeung, the first author on this book and originator of most of the ideas.  He has trained many of the leaders of Chinese companies (including Haier) and has been granted first hand access to the ideas he shaped and companies have implemented in our case studies."  

I told Dave there was no need to apologise, and I wasn’t trying to make a thing of  the connections between our books. This blog is a personalised narrative on what I see happening around me, but also on what I’m doing. And therefore a lot of my posts are commenting from a fairly egocentric perspective. Two years after my book, that still often means commenting on, and making links back to that. So I see and have described how the books has advanced thinking from TSO, but I wouldn’t expect Dave to refer to it. (And he's already been very generous in  shout outs at various conferences around the world too.)

And Dave was right about Arthur of course (not saying he was wrong about everything else) and I've tried to give Arthur a stronger billing, at least in the last three posts.

There's also this comment from Dave on his HR Magazine article:

"Jon has done and will continue to do exceptional work. It is a legitimate and great debate to do work from the inside/out or outside/in. My first book Organization Capability (1990) was subtitled, "competing from the inside out" and built on CK Prahalad's idea of leveraging your core competences. More recently, we have focused more outside in (HR Value Proposition; HR From the Outside In). Hopefully, where ever one starts (inside or outside), they create a virtuous cycle (actually spiral) to both win in the marketplace with customers and investors and in he work place with individual competencies and organization capabilities. Jon's note that not all organizations should be MOE's is a very nice addition we should have acknowledged."

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