On one slide, a five-way mashup

The slide in question:

Structures – static and dynamic – that fit

In the background, two models:

  1. Klaus Leopold’s Flight Levels, described in his book Rethinking Agile (2020)
  2. The Deliberately Adaptive Organisation, my 21st-century take on Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model, and here in particular, what’s happening in the relationships between different scales (between team and team-of-teams, for example)

And in the foreground, two more:

  1. A phrase (“Reaching…”) borrowed from the opening question of my Outside-in Strategy Review, as described in my book Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (2019, audiobook 2020), and below it, four questions: Who, Where, What, When
  2. From his book The Fractal Organisation (2009), Patrick Hoverstadt’s four dimensions/axes of organisation (lower left) – how to understand an organisation structure that is at least trying to be good fit for its business environment

Not shown, but we’ll come to it in a moment:

  1. Bob Moesta’s Demand-Side Sales 101: Stop Selling and Help Your Customers Make Progress (2020) – ostensibly about sales but really a great book on jobs-to-be-done (JTBD), a book I keep finding myself recommending

Let’s take the last three of those more slowly. The Outside-in Strategy Review – free template here, and the corresponding Leading with Outcomes module here – takes you from the outside of the organisation through to its inside, walking you through the five layers of Customer, Organisation, Product, Platform, and Team(s).

The challenge question for the Customer layer goes as follows:

What’s happening when we’re reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs*?

*strategic needs: their needs, our strategy

By design, facilitated dialogue around that question can explore any number of issues. Not to prejudge anything but to help ensure that nothing crucial gets overlooked, we like to unpack it explicitly, hence the Who, Where, What, When questions on the slide.

Notice the correspondences between those customer-related questions and Patrick’s axes/dimensions. These are about how you structure your organisation to best fit your business environment:

  • Where you have different teams serving different user personas or customer segments, you are organising in the Customer dimension
  • Where different teams serve different locations, you are organising in the Geography dimension
  • Where different teams provide different solutions to different customer needs, you are organising in the Technology dimension (technology used in its broadest possible sense here)
  • Where different teams work at (for example) different stages of a product’s lifecycle, or simply at different times of day, you are organising in the Time dimension.

Organisations don’t need to be enormous before using each of those. I once managed a global department of around 100 people; its structure divided along the time axis first, then geography (with some regulatory accountabilities reaching in from higher up too), then customer and technology together, those last two in an informal matrix. On top of all that, we had a time & geography follow-the-sun thing going as well!

Technology and time come together in jobs-to-be-done (JTBD), hence the Bob Moesta reference. In fact, they come together in at least two ways:

  1. There’s the ‘when’ of what Bob calls a “struggling moment”, or what in one of my more successful posts I called an “authentic situation of need“. This is when the need arises, creating the job-to-be-done and your opportunity to be there for your customer.
  2. There’s another lifecycle, that of the customer’s relationship with you. How do they go from not knowing of your existence to being your champion? Between those extremes, through what stages to they pass, and what are their needs at each stage? Crudely, you can think of the functional separation of things like marketing, sales, and support as organising along this dimension, but read Bob’s book to understand this dimension more deeply in customer and product terms.

Bottom line, if your organisation’s structure doesn’t help it enjoy a healthy and productive relationship with its business environment, it’s going to struggle. Being able to understand its structure in the above terms is a good sign, and a much better starting point I think than the one that emphasises bigger structures and bigger processes for bigger projects, which both sadly and ironically is where Agile seems to be these days¹.

All five models of the complete mashup are brought together in Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale, the fourth and final module of Leading with Outcomes (more on that in the informational section below). The first two models, Flight Levels and the Deliberately Adaptive Organisation are emphasised in my upcoming meetup talk (already two iterations on from the March version as I’ve done it privately since, and I’m aiming for keynote quality):

I’m delighted that Flight Levels creator Klaus Leopold joins me for May’s webinar session:

And looking ahead to June, it’s all covered on days two and three of this three-day event – book your place now!

As always, there are discounts available to employees and employers in the government, healthcare, education, and non-profit sectors – and of course to Academy subscribers. If in doubt, ping me for a coupon code!

¹In times of change, what scales better than process? (youtube.com) ​​

[This post shared on LinkedIn here – interaction of any kind appreciated!]

Leading with Outcomes from the Agendashift Academy
“Leadership and strategy in the transforming organisation”

Leading with Outcomes is our modular curriculum in leadership and organisation development. Each module is available as self-paced online training or as private, instructor-led training (online or in-person). Certificates of completion or participation according to format. Its four modules in the recommended order:

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  4. Adaptive Organisation: Business agility at every scale (parts I and II, a certificate for each)

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