Just one question about “The Kinetic Organisation”, by Regus / AWA…”really?”

by Paul Carder on September 19, 2012

I picked up a copy of “The Kinetic Organisation” from the Regus stand at CoreNet Global #CNGLondon. It is written by my ex-colleague, Andrew Mawson, owner of Advanced Workplace Associates, a UK workplace management consultancy. I’d like to also give credit to Regus for continuing to fund reports into interesting subjects.

Now, it is always dangerous to comment before you have read a report thoroughly! So, I’m prepared to be corrected of course, as the devil may well be in the detail within the 40pp report. However…..I just have some observations on first skim through the summary and conclusions sections.

The opening paragraph states the following:

“With the advent of cost-effective IT and social networking technologies there are possibilities for communicating and controlling the activities of an organisation, which are potentially more efficient than the ‘hierarchical models'”

But, surely “communicating” and “controlling” are two different (albeit related) issues. IT and social networking do make communication ubiquitous and 24/7/365 – how managers chose the best form of communication for the ‘task’ is becoming a core skill, perhaps always has been. But “controlling” is surely about communicating with some level of authority. That authority comes from hierarchy, or “grade” perhaps (for example, in the very flexible project-based structures of management consultancies, where the grades of Consultant, Manager, Director, Partner – or similar – are well understood and interchangeable between competitors when people move from employer to employer).

And that brings me onto the second paragraph of the summary:

“…the traditional command and control organisational model is broken…..why does it endure? Simply because there are no other models that have been demonstrated to work…..” 

Really?? So what about the example I have just mentioned – large consulting organisations. Not only do they advise their clients on strategy & structure, but they practice what they teach! Education and training is absolutely vital, and so is a clear risk-related hierarchy, of decision-making responsibility. I learned this at Deloitte, where consultants, Managers, Assistant Directors, and Directors all had clear decision-making guidelines, peer review, and Director or Partner sign-off prior to issue of work into the ‘public domain’ (mostly, clients – sometimes, events etc.).

So, to say that there are “no other models” is, frankly, uninformed. However, there are no references given, nor even a bibliography, at the end of the report – so how one can understand where the “no other models” conclusion came from is ‘opaque’ if not invisible.

One last point. The Conclusion on p.37 starts “This research provides a body of evidence…..”

No it doesn’t I’m afraid, and that discredits the concept of “research”. The report tells us nothing about the body of work which surely exists in this field. I’m sure my co-Director, Dr Jim Ware, could quickly unearth several previous publications from his library shelf, or his friends at Cornell and Harvard.

I would like to know how many organisations were studied, which sectors they were from (that is very relevant to the type of work, and therefore need, or not, of hierarchy), and numbers and geographical spread of responses from the “user survey”. Without all that, it is in no way “a body of evidence”, is it? So I cannot really use this report as I’d like to, because anyone can ask “so how were those conclusions reached?”…I don’t want to have to say, “erm, they didn’t say”!

I hope that in the future, Regus will set down guidelines for what they call “research” if it wishes to be taken seriously. A useful “thought leadership” piece, or opener for debate, is fine. But please reserve the term “research” for studies with a fully documented research process – literature review, references, data analysis, recommendations for further work, etc. Talk to Jim….he is one of the best anywhere!

Paul Carder, Founder/Director – Occupiers Journal Limited
twitter: @occupiers or @WorkAndPlace ; paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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