Flexible Organization Structures: Some Questions We're Living Into

MAG sits in an interesting place in the progressive movement network space.  We try to keep our eye on the big ecosystem of intersectional movements and work frequently with networks and coalitions.  But for years we’ve been right down in the heart of the organizations that, in part, comprise these networks. We work with them on how to evolve their boards, senior teams, internal communications and learning systems, and their structures to adapt to the network context.

We have seen some things that work well for networked organizations (at least for a while). But we can say with some confidence that it is definitely more art than science—and maybe that is the nature of the beast.  

Paraphrasing a wise one: When your structure has caught up to your mission you’re already in decline. (If someone knows the source of this please let me know.)

That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be discussed or learned. I’d like to share some of the questions we have been living into with clients and partners related to the internal structuring of organizations that are heavily involved in rapidly changing networks and ecosystems.  I’m indebted to the leaders in our client organizations who are willing to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge the messiness of their structures and to play together with us in exploring these questions.  (Thank you. You know who you are!)

When your structure has caught up to your mission you’re already in decline.
— Unknown

Questions We're Living Into

  • If my organization looks pretty conventionally structured, how can I still do unconventional work?
     
  • What if culture and level of consciousness are more important than structure in shaping the most effective ways of working together?
     
  • What is the baseline of structure and competency that needs to be in place before culture, consciousness and process become more important than structure?
     
  • How do internalized, negative views of power and authority among social change actors create blind spots about the upsides of more conventional forms of organization?  What are this generation’s unconscious barriers to exercising their personal power and influence?
     
  • How can we become more comfortable living with continually evolving roles and structures, and learn to evolve these rapidly with minimal personal and organizational angst and friction?
     
  • Why are some organizations successful in using on-line platforms to keep everyone abreast of what’s happening and changing, while others struggle?


Food for Thought

Some of my favorite ideas and resources that are sparking our thinking at MAG about organizational structure in organizations operating in complex, networked spaces are: