Article

The Fluid Organisation - An Ideal Mix of Hierarchy and Self-management

We do a good job at the ParkLane Insight group. You are blowing your own trumpet, I hear you say. True, but false modesty is half the sin of pride. The only way out of this cul-de-sac is to bring in the experts. If you don't believe us, the authorities on the subject have shown that we, the lived-experience experts, undoubtedly have the right end of the stick and know exactly what we are doing.

The management book, The Fluid Organisation - An Ideal Mix of Hierarchy and Self-management, presents us with an opportunity to amplify and broadcast that signal. The long-standing practice in our organisation, and one that altered our course, is remarkably consistent with the content of this book. It was written by Dutchman Arne de Vet (University of Tilburg) and Belgian Filip Lowette. Both of whom advise the heads of big organisations. Their brainchild saw the light of day in 2018, and Lannoo Campus have already printed a third edition.

In our group we have long taken the view that businesses and enterprises that run along strictly hierarchical lines and reduce costs through economies of scale are past their prime. At the time of our formation in 2002 we went all-out to create a flat-network organisation with knowledge sharing as the norm. The fact that the digital revolution is altering the economy ever more rapidly and radically has made this an even more topical and relevant choice. As innovators of workplace organisation from the very beginning, and as lived-experience experts, we know all the ins and outs. In their book Arne de Vet and Filip Lowette say: “Precisely because of its fluid structure, it can easily adapt to suit unexpected events and developments.”

ECONOMIES OF MOTIVATION®

The ParkLane Insight group views Economies of Scale as outmoded, and goes for Economies of Motivation®. Our reason for being is to grow the people we work with: Furthering People for Better Performance in Do-How. In the first place they are the consultants that we assign our projects to and the employees at our vast BaseCamp, who work on that offering. Anyone who holds the reins to their own career is more than welcome. We call them Me inc.® (me incorporated) professionals.

Our reason for being is to grow the people we work with.

Pieter Smit of the ParkLane Insight Leadership Team

Motivated employees are happier, and they deliver better results. That creates a win-win-win scenario for them, the client and the business. At TriFinance we find that it pays daily to work the way we do. That understanding is evident in The Fluid Organisation when the authors write: “Personal growth of everyone’s potential is extremely important; it goes a long way in determining the organisation's success.” The experts stress that personal and team development awaken an organisation's potential and let it grow.

NO-OBJECTION-DECISION-MAKING

The organisational type built by the ParkLane Insight group rests on a mix of self-management and hierarchy. The author-experts unveil a theoretical framework based on the same necessity. Their book gives building blocks, examples and tasks related to binding communication, more efficient meetings and alternative decision making. It is no easy task to combine self-management with hierarchy, and it can place strains on the decision-making process. The book uses the term ‘no-objection-decision-making’. The authors state that that everyone can make decisions provided that input and advice have been taken and there are no (lasting) objections. An objection holds when the business as a whole would be worse off if the proposed decision were implemented.

We go to a work environment in which ‘authority’ over individuals is shared according to role and expertise.

Pieter Smit of the ParkLane Insight Leadership Team

Arne de Vet and Filip Lowette also recommend preserving a hierarchical structure to clarify who makes the final decision, should that be necessary. In the ParkLane Insight group we see Leadership as the driver of team work. Managers can direct, coach, support or delegate. It all depends on the circumstances and the peculiarities of the team. Whatever the case, a balance has to be found between self-management, cooperation and leadership. In a flat-network environment like ours that balance heightens the need for practical arrangements and rules about team work, because nobody wants a badly run organisation where chaos reigns. We go to a work environment in which ‘authority’ over individuals is shared according to role and expertise. Depending on the circumstances, the authority and the individuals can change.

DYNAMIC ROLES REPLACE THE JOB DESCRIPTION

The authors are in keeping with the ParkLane Insight group when they talk about replacing traditional tools like the organisational chart and job description with a fluid set of teams and multiple roles per person. The ParkLane Insight group put systems in place to shape that fundamental shift of emphasis in practice. BaseCampers define their roles through discussion with their manager. In the process they consider the Me inc.®’ers wishes and the organisation's needs. Consultants in the field have had the ability to input their career goals to the ‘Living Me inc.®’ platform for some time. The latest tool - the ‘Behaviour, Skills and Knowledge’ framework - now allows them to highlight their current professional status and evolution. The next step is to integrate these growth tools.