Organizational Landscaping: a search for references

by Paul Carder on December 14, 2013

I am going to try to crowd-source this one! – I need your feedback please! The term “organizational landscape”, or the term in action, “landscaping”. Have you used it? Has it been used by any group that you recall? How and why?

I do like the term “landscaping”, because it is physical (like our world of spaces, and places) and also partly because it could sit in a suite of terms prefaced by the word “Organizational”. For example, as follows:

Organizational behaviour (OB): looks at individuals, groups and structures;

Organizational development (OD): relates to OB, but is a deliberate planned intervention to improve organizational effectiveness;

Organizational model & structure: how you make sense of the form of the organization

Organizational politics: see this interesting article using the term “landscape”

Organizational vision & values: arguably the most critical success factor – where you are heading, and how to get there responsibly!

Organizational Landscaping could be a useful term to describe the design and management of the whole physical environment that an organization uses to deliver its mission, efficiently and effectively. It is both of the following:

  • a number of built environments used by people across the organization, and across all geographies; and
  • a number of information infrastructure environments (computers, mobile devices, communications technologies);

Has anyone used the term already?

Lawrence M. Miller used the term in his blog, “The Lean Culture Challenge: Can You Graduate from the 5S’s to The 7S’s that Really Matter?”

He says, in relation to the lean thinking 5S’s model, “[It] does not address the big issues that drive the culture and competitiveness of any organization.” Lawrence goes on to describe 7S’s “that are the key levers, the things that determine your culture.” He says, “These are the things that you can change and these are the things for which leaders must take responsibility.”

So, thinking myself about how the physical environment – spaces, buildings, places, service culture – must be one of these 7S’s, I was excited for a brief moment to find the first ‘S’ was in fact The Landscape! So, maybe I have found my guru! But not quite…

The Landscape: If you are developing strategy you develop that strategy to adapt to a changing environment… and it is always changing! If you are in the business of retail sales you must be adapting to the external changes in technology and social habits. Are you developing a strong web and social media presence or are you stuck in brick and mortar stores? These are obvious elements of strategy that are driven by the realities of the landscape. Economic and political changes will also affect strategy. …..And changes in the climate may have something to do with where you build that next plant and what your insurance costs may be in the future. All competitive strategy involves gathering intelligence and developing a response to the challenges of the external environment. The corporate graveyard is littered with the names of companies that failed to recognize and adapt to the changing landscape.

It is all fair enough, but it is not what I wanted to read: a management guru talking about the physical ‘landscape’ of the organization.

“Bodies in a Landscape”

Johanna Hofbauer, in a book called “Body and Organization” used the word Landscape in her chapter, “Bodies in a Landscape: On Office Design and Organization“.

I do not have access to the whole text, but it is good to see the term Landscape being used in the context in which I had imagined it – i.e., physical space and environment.

 

Do you know of any other precedents for the use of “Organizational Landscaping” as a term which could fit into the body of knowledge on organization and management? We need something, to capture the higher-level view. All the terms we use are far too specific and/or technical. Even corporate real estate is too focused on buildings. “Infrastructure” is a possibility, particularly with the convergence of the built asset infrastructure and the information technology infrastructure.

I like the term “Landscaping” – what do you think?

Paul (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com) Twitter: @occupiers

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