The Holistic Structure
Life is like a cobweb, not an organization chart. 1– Ross Perot
The organization is a structured social entity. It is characterized by a coordinated activity system that remains in close and continuous interaction with its external environment.
As a social unit, every organization is presumed to have a special and limited purpose (such as providing education or generating profits). Further, its creators intend it to last beyond the accomplishment of a single action. Regardless of whether it is configured as a firm, a corporation, a trust, a partnership or a trade union, all organizations begin life by constituting or electing a Governing Body for themselves.
An organization actually comes into being when a Governing Body decides to get its work done by employing people. Each employee assumes a specific position within the institution. Work is done through the specialization of different functions. The output is generated by means of process movement across vertical functions.
A system of organizational layers is gradually formed. Work cascades down its successive levels. People at higher levels of decision-making authority and accountability provide directional inputs to their colleagues at the lower strata towards the meeting of articulated goals and the performance of tasks.
The core function of the organization, and also its chief merit, lies in its capacity to judiciously manage the uncertainties that are inherent in complex work. 2
The term “structure” refers to the mutual relationships that exist between the components of any organized whole. For instance, a building is a structure that represents the relationship between the foundation, skeleton, ceiling and the walls. Similarly, the human body is a structure that comprises of the relationships between the bones, organs, blood and the tissues. Likewise, every organization has a structure that represents the framework of mutual relationships between jobs, roles, systems, processes and the people who work to achieve goals.
The structure of the organization is a method of dividing and coordinating its activities. It is designed to clarify who is to do what, and which person is responsible for what results and outcomes.
In the simplest of organizations, the people share an informal relationship with one another. Task allocation is decided on the basis of mutual agreement among the team members.
The functional structure divides the organization by means of a logical grouping of people who share common tasks or goals. Within each function, members are grouped according to the process, the product, the customer type, or the geographical region where the activity takes place.
When the functional structure becomes too cumbersome for agile decision-making, the organization typically takes on a multi-divisional form. It is divided into several relatively independent Divisions or Business Units. Each of these units is provided with considerable autonomy in making operational decisions. Corporate headquarters formulates the enterprise strategy, and monitors unit performance.
The matrix organization exists as a combination of the functional and multi-divisional structures. It employs functional as well as project managers. The functional manager is responsible for assigning specialists to projects, and facilitating the acquisition of skills that are necessary for project completion. On the other hand, the project manager supervises each project in terms of the budgets and timelines.
In the matrix structure, group members are assigned to project teams based on an agreement between the functional and project managers. They report to both of these positions. These dual lines of authority and accountability often create conflict.
The network organizational structure is formed when several enterprises come together to form a partnership, usually with the help of modern technology, in order to produce valued goods and services. Technology-mediated coordination of activities lowers the administrative costs and enhances efficiency.
A virtual organization is a temporary or fleeting network of otherwise independent entities that are linked together through electronic communication and technology in order to provide skills, costs, and accessibility to different markets. All the task activities of such an entity are generally outsourced.
These are some of the ways in which organizations structure themselves, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Role Authority and Accountability
Interpersonal interactions in all kinds of organizational forms and structures take place within established role relationships.
A role represents a position in a dynamic social system that allows the person to use her discretion and ability in order to achieve an outcome. It refers to what the team or organization expects the individual to do. A rolethus defines the nature of responsibility for a distinct area of work. The role incumbents pursue the agreed goals and are subsequently rewarded or sanctioned for their performance.
Authority and accountability are the two primary attributes attached to every role. These are complementary in nature, much like the two sides of the same coin. They determine who can say what to whom, who must say what to whom, and establish who can get whom to do what.
Accountability refers to a statement of promise to oneself as well as one’s colleagues with respect to the delivery of specific results. It occurs when a person is answerable to a higher authority for work, resources, and outcomes. Accountability requires room for personal judgment and decision-making. The terms “accountability” and “responsibility” are virtually synonymous with each other.
Accountability assumes a proactive and conscious commitment to the purpose of an organization. It applies to individuals. It is neither shared nor conditional.3
On the other hand, authority refers to the aspects of a role that enables the role holder to act appropriately with respect to other colleagues. A person with the requisite authority may legitimately direct his or her colleagues towards the accomplishment of tasks and activities assigned to them.
Authority thus makes it reasonably possible to do what needs to be done, in order to carry out the responsibility or accountability with which the person has been charged.
In this manner, authority and accountability serve to clearly establish where people stand in relationship to one another. Working together, they help to set the overall work expectations from each role.
Wholeness in Structure
Empirical observation indicates that reality is characterized by a nested structure. Everything in the universe is whole and complete by itself, but is simultaneously a part of a greater whole.
Each element becomes significant only in the context of its peer elements as well as the supra-structure to which it belongs.
Arthur Koestler coined the term “Holon”in order to describe universal reality from a holistic perspective. He defined a Holon as a self-reliant unit that is simultaneously a whole as well as a part. Every Holon is considered to possess a certain degree of autonomy that enables it to handle contingencies, without seeking instructions from its senior authorities. At the same time, it is subject to regulation and control from these higher agencies. 4
A “holarchy” is construed as an upwardly evolving hierarchy of self-regulating Holons. It is characterized by differentiation, followed by the integration of differences at successive levels. Each level of integration provides the next level of difference and thus helps to tackle a higher level of complexity.
The physical world shows this ordering, as we move from subatomic particles to atoms to molecules to complex molecules to compounds of complex molecules which are the stuff of planets, solar systems, galaxies, and finally to the cosmos itself. Human beings extend this patterning of differentiation and integration into abstractions like the nuclear family, the extended family, the tribe, the nation-state, unions of states and ultimately the United Nations. 5
Corporate institutions too are organized on holarchic lines. Each stratum of management represents a Holon that addresses complexity by being the integrator of its reporting management levels. For instance, a shop floor employee is part of the assembly department, which is integrated into the manufacturing function, which in turn is integrated with additional functions (such as marketing or finance) in order to make up a business.
Suppose X represents the manufacturing function while Y is the marketing function and Z is the overall Business Unit. While X is very different from Y, both of them have their respective functional purpose as well as a higher business purpose. These two functions come together to create the business Z that is different from either of them. This is akin to hydrogen and oxygen combining together to form water.
The business is differentiated from competitors, but is integrated into a domestic industry structure. This, in turn, is integrated into a worldwide industry structure.
Ongoing differentiation and integration are seen. Each level contains and respects all its lower levels. The sense of purpose becomes progressively broader as the hierarchical levels are ascended.
The Holistic Organization Structure
Research shows that the job roles in any organization vary from less to more complex, in a series of distinct steps of complexity. Each step represents a discrete level that is referred to as a stratum (or “strata” in plural).
The work at each stratum has some distinctive characteristics. These are derived from the particular quality and complexity of tasks, goals and objectives work that needs to be accomplished.
All organized work is seen to fall into a natural hierarchy that comprises seven strata. A holistic organizational structure therefore comprises seven strataor perspectives that are organized into a ladder of accountability. In a stratified system of this nature, people at various levels are accountable for the work of others who are placed at a relatively lower stratum. Each senior level demands a more comprehensive response to the world and its many situations as well as possibilities.
The logic underlying a holistic organizationstructure is a conceptually integrated one. The roles at ascending levels of the hierarchy are accountable for solving problems of growing intricacy. People at a senior level take decisions that cannot be taken at a lower level because the subordinates lack the relevant knowledge, experience or capability.
The range of objectives to be achieved and the environmental circumstances to be taken into account progressively broaden with each upward progression, and the nature of work becomes more complex.Work at higher strata of the organization is therefore experienced as being relatively more responsible. This is how the decision-making process is enriched along the organization’s spine of accountability.
A holistic structure establishes values and practices that greatly increase effectiveness. Ittakes advantage of the judgment and decision-making capabilities of people at all levels. Jobholders are held accountable for the results that are obtained by all those sub-ordinates who work under their guidance.
An individual’s ability to handle complexity is referred to as his or her “cognitive” capacity. It reflects the person’s mental horsepower, so to say. Cognitive capacity is a measure of the person’s ability to organize, extrapolate, and apply judgment in the making of decisions and solving of problems. When selecting a candidate for a role, it is important to find a person who is willing to do the work, possesses the necessary skills, and is also equipped with the cognitive capacity needed for the role.
Employees generally wish to be guided by a person who is at least one stratum of cognitive capability above them. This is because a manager at the same level of capability as the employee breathes down the latter’s neck. On the other hand, a boss who is two or more strata above the sub-ordinate feels too distant. He also does not want to slow down to coach the employee.
Such micro-management (in the first instance) and aloofness (in the second instance) are not personality problems. These are merely the symptoms of a poorly designed organization structure.
In the absence of a holistic structure, subordinates are often manipulated into doing things – in the name of “people” skills. This occurs due to the lack of clear and correct assignment of authority and accountability.
Team-work and Net-work are complementary to Hierarchy
The notion of hierarchy has naturally evolved with society, throughout its post-tribal history. All attempts over the millennia to establish a sustainable alternative have failed.
This is probably because the hierarchy is the only structure that truly fits human nature. As indicated in Chapter 3, the human personality itself is constituted of numerous hierarchical levels – as envisaged in the Great Chain of Being.
Yet, some of the newer approaches to organization design maintain that the notion of hierarchy is now outmoded. They advocate open and egalitarian organizations, wherein the differences in the levels of allocated work as well as the authority are systematically abolished. The need to respond to distinctions in the levels of cognitive complexity that is required for solving various kinds of problems is also done away with.
An especially popular concept in modern times is that of the cross-functional team. This is considered to be a self-organizing work group that draws its members from different functional areas. Within such a team, roles are broadly defined and members are trained in multiple skills.
Cross-functional teams are generally mandated to look after a complete business process. They are thus expected to help eliminate any silos or other dysfunctional boundaries that may exist between the different organizational functions. 6
The presence of teams is often confused with the absence of hierarchy. The general impression about teamwork is that it demands interaction between equals, without any exercise of authority whatsoever. However, most teams do have an internal structure that is different and separate from the management styles adopted during its functioning. The individual who takes personal accountability for results is seen to be the team leader, for example. This is especially visible in times of crisis.
Teamwork actually represents a shared endeavour, and not shared accountability.At its best, it serves to laterally complement the vertical hierarchy of decision-making accountability rather than replace it. In fact, high performing teams can only be established in a well-structured organization. Such work-units require an explicit delineation of the accountability and authority of the team leader and the members, as well as clearly defined role linkages between them and the rest of the organization.
The modern “team” gurus Katzenbach and Smith say, “Contrary to popular opinion, teams do not imply the destruction of hierarchy. Indeed, quite the reverse. Teams and hierarchy make each other perform better, because structure and hierarchy generate performance within well-defined boundaries. Teams, in turn, productively bridge these boundaries in order to deliver yet greater and higher performance.”7
The network form of organization is another design that has lately emerged as a tool to cope with the uncertainty and turbulence of modern environments. Without a doubt, the network is a brilliant way of tapping into the talents of a dispersed community through the use of modern technology.
Networks can help to build inclusive organizational communities that are characterized by mutual respect, support, and encouragement. 8However, network-based organizations also struggle with the assumption of accountability by its diverse membership.
Traditionally, people looked to an individual leader upon whom to place the buck. But in a quasi-autonomous and self-organizing network, how does anyone assert control or accept responsibility? Ensuring decision-making accountability in a networked environment remains very tricky.
On the other hand, natural hierarchies are seen to assert themselves wherever human beings organize themselves to work. Regardless of the flat or stratified nature of the organization, there is no substitute for the assignment of decision-making responsibility at various levels of complexity to different role holders. The more complexity that a jobholder can deal with, the bigger the problems that he or she can solve, and greater the number that this person can potentially manage or lead.
The Seven Accountability Levels in a Holistic Structure
In any organization, the people at different strata within the structure hold the accountability for unique aspects of institutional work. As one moves up the organizational pyramid, the complexity involved in making decisions and judgments increases at each successive stratum.
The presence of role holders at different strata who can handle different levels of complexity helps the organization to adequately fulfill its mandate. The art of organization development lies in maintaining a dynamic equilibrium between each person’s potential capability and the level of complexity involved in her work.
The basic building block of every organization is the “individual contributor.” This is a non-management role that contributes to the accomplishment of the larger organizational goals by completing the assigned tasks within the given time frame and other parameters.
The next higher level in the organization is referred to as the team, project, department or section. It represents a collection of individual contributors that work harmoniously together under the guidance of a supervisor or team leader.
The third stratum generally represents the functional area or a geographical region. Its work operations are handled and coordinated by a jobholder, who is quintessentially referred to as the “manager.”
The fourth organizational rung is the Business Unit or Division. It comprises several functions or geographical regions that work in tandem with one another to produce and deliver goods and services.
The Division is an operationally distinct entity that is allowed considerable autonomy and independence in the way it conducts its business. It works under the tutelage of an “Executive”.
At the fifth level of analysis is the organization itself. This is often a coalescence of divisions or business units that come together to make an integrated whole. The overall mandate for this entity is usually entrusted to a Chief Executive Officer or the Organizational Leader.
Several enterprises are often grouped together into a business conglomerate that works under the guidance of a Supervisory Board or Governing Council. Alternatively, a trans-national corporation comprises of country-wise subsidiary organizational units that work under an Executive Committee whose members are Group Business Heads in charge of different geographies. Its members constitute the sixth stratum in organizations.
Finally, there is a Chairperson at the helm – who occupies the apex or the seventh level.
In consonance with these institutional levels, there are a set of seven organizational roles that make up a whole organization – a) the worker, b) the supervisor, c) the manager, d) the executive, e) the leader, f) the director, and g) the chairperson. The nomenclature may vary according to the legal, geographical or cultural context. But, the essence of each role remains the same.
The Worker delivers task performance, which is not just the end product but also the raison de etréof the organization itself. The Supervisor aligns and harmonizes the collective output produced by individual contributors. The Manager optimizes the working of the function or region. These three roles are largely operational in nature.They involve the assumption of accountability for existing resources such as physical assets, technology, systems, ideas, money, people or any combination of these.
Moving on to the strategic domain, the Executive acts innovatively to secure results at the Business Unit level. The Leader integrates the different organizational units into a cohesive whole that is capable of sustaining itself into eternity. The Director exercises oversight and catalyzes executive development from her perch on the Apex Council. These roles are more strategic in nature.
Strategy is the organization’s conception of how to deal with its environment for a time.9It involves the realignment of assets, based on an assessment of resource gaps and the meeting of untapped needs. The key strategic accountability is that of identifying opportunities and constraints, followed by the setting of priorities and provision of extra resources to critical or identified initiatives.
Finally, the Chairperson is responsible for institutional governance. He or she sets out the value system of the organization. The Chairperson also champions the welfare of all its stakeholders, such that the world may become a better place to live in.
In a holistic structure, every role has a definite set of decisions to make, results to deliver, and an overall organizational effectiveness function to perform. The accountability for each of these roles requires a distinctly different level of cognitive capability. Thus, separate individuals should perform all of these roles.
However, in the early stages of an enterprise, these roles may not necessarily be configured into a vertical hierarchy. This is simply on account of situational contingency.
To begin with, the one and the same person (usually, the entrepreneur) might in fact perform all of these roles. For the success of the enterprise, the actual performance of all these functions is more critical as compared to the secondary issues of which person plays what part. That is why the concept of a holistic structure does not conflict with the notions of a flat organization.
However, when an individual who is capable of handling greater complexity is asked to play a role that requires a lower degree of mental processing, it constitutes a waste of precious executive resources. In the medium to long run, this also leads to intense boredom and dis-satisfaction of the role holder.
The Challenges at each Accountability level
The work challenges at each of the seven strata in the hierarchy of accountability are as follows:
Stratum I (Individual Contributor; Worker)
People who hold direct responsibility for task achievement are referred to as Individual Contributors.
The tasks to be accomplished by them are essentially demands or requirements such as a product to be made, a service to be rendered, some specific information to be collected, or a prescribed test to be carried out. These demands must be met within the prescribed parameters of time, cost, safety, and quality etc. The output or service that is expected of an individual contributor is prescribed in detail. The objectives, as well as the circumstances of the work, are well defined.
Individual contributors are expected to respond swiftly by way of concrete action. If there is any doubt about whether the task is to be pursued in the first place, the matter can be referred to a higher authority.
The problems that usually present themselves in the work of an individual contributor have discrete solutions that are provided by the supervisor. When the appropriate response to a problem is not clear, guidelines exist for an expert referral. If emergency situations occur, the procedures for coping with these are laid out.
Individual contributors manage themselves and their resources to optimal effect. While they are not accountable for making changes to a given schedule, they may seek improvement within that schedule.
Individual contributors continuously use judgment by way of practical watchfulness in relation to immediate tasks. Their performance ideal is to accomplish their mandate with excellence.
Excellence is the art of doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. Noble intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution and the vision to see obstacles as opportunities yield excellence by way of efficacy, mastery as well as a sense of fulfillment that arises during task performance.
Stratum II (Supervisor; Team Leader, Department Head or Project In-charge)
Supervision is the process wherein one person sets the purpose or direction for some of the other colleagues, and gets them to move together in that direction with competence and commitment.10The tasks to be accomplished by the supervisor are concrete in nature. However, many of these must be handled simultaneously.
Supervisors synchronize the efforts of numerous individual contributors. The skills expected of them include the planning and assignment of work, facilitating the engagement of people, and an accurate measurement of the work done. The supervisor provides expert input when a system is down, and installs checks and balances to prevent the recurrence of mistakes.
Supervisory work requires fact gathering and diagnosis of a given situation, often making use of specialist knowledge and expertise. Situational demands must not be taken at face value; there is an implicit requirement to explore and find out the “real” needs of the people or situation being handled.
Supervisors are therefore expected to gather information step-by-step, in order to reveal the underlying complexities of each particular circumstance. Whereas the individual contributor gives the customer or stakeholder what she asks for, the supervisor always seeks to find out what it is that he really wants.
The resources available to supervisors are restricted to the existing products, geography, customers, suppliers, technology, and systems. The required output can only be partially specified beforehand. The jobholder is permitted to flex the schedule i.e. make short-term changes to the work plan.
Supervisory work is carried out in emergent circumstances. The mettle of the supervisor is tested particularly when workplace complaints, conflicts, and performance problems need to be addressed. Facilitating the kind of symphony witnessed in a musical orchestra is the primary supervisory mandate.
Stratum III (Functional Manager; Regional Head or Practice Leader)
The third level of accountability is that of the quintessential manager. The manager has to meet plans that are specified by volume, quality and time.
The problems faced by managers are operational in nature, but are quite challenging. Finding solutions to these problems involves the identification of patterns in the actual performance of existing products, systems and services. Managers analyze the situation, evaluate the linkages between the different variables, develop a new system, negotiate its introduction, and iron out the teething problems.
Managers are responsible for the effectiveness of current operations. Work from different departments or sections needs to be harmonized. This requires the integration of a number of teams and disciplines. The resources to be managed comprise of a mini-organization, which includes a set of people, technology, equipment, and premises.
Managers handle diverse situations. They judiciously manage the interaction between situational variables in order to achieve the planned outcomes. Managers typically choose or select new methods and procedures from what is given and generally accepted, in the light of local conditions. Best practices are gradually established.
The core managerial mandate is to harness the maximum output from the deployment of minimal resources. Managersare held accountable for the improved performance or productivity of existing assets, products, systems and processes, but not for their reconfiguration.They are expected to develop concrete mental models towards dealing with the future, in the light of past experience.
Managers typically know personally all the employees in their region, practice or function. They make the most of people as well as technology, in order to realize the chosen purpose or goals. Managerial interaction with the external environment involves customers or suppliers in different locations.
Stratum IV (Executive; Business Head, Divisional Head)
Executive work involves the management of Divisions or Business Units.
The executive mandate is to deal with the imbalances and delinquencies in meeting the needs of a given operation or territory. The gaps in the availability and performance of resources and systems are analyzed. New linkages among the existing body of ideas, practices, and policies are established. Potentially innovative solutions are conceptualized, assessed and implemented. Constancy is integrated with change, by means of skillful navigation between the current certainty and the preferred future.
Executives are required to engage in abstract modeling. This requires the capacity to discard past experience, and engage in the breakthrough, outside-of-the-box thinking. While creativity may exist at all levels in the organization, the accountability for the discovery, conceptualization, and invention of new solutions resides squarely in the executive domain.
In a dynamic business environment wherein interactions are rife with conflict and contrasts, the business executive is required to promote stability and growth, tradition and innovation, collaboration and competition, order and freedom – all at the same time. The primary executive challenge is to pull together these apparently incompatible priorities that are simultaneously critical in delivering value.
The executive genius lies in recognizing that extraordinary synergy may be obtained by the transcendence of dichotomy, through the creative integration of opposing perspectives. The synergistic approach to management has a logic that reconciles differences. It enables people who hold contrasting value systems to sit down and break bread together, so to say.
Business executives need to respect and value different people as well as divergent perspectives. They must systematically leverage these, in order to create “win-win” outcomes. Perceptual flexibility helps the executives to recognize complementarity, in situations where others see only conflict.
Executives evolve innovative solutions through an integrative approach. Intrepid entrepreneurs across the ages have been doing just that, in order to generate disruptive innovation. This is now the mandate of contemporary entrepreneurs and organizational executives alike.
Stratum V (Organizational Leader or Chief Executive Officer)
Leaders are responsible for the integrated functioning of a fully resourced, self-sufficient operating enterprise. They weave together and integrate all of the value-creation work that occurs at the sub-ordinate levels in the organization’s hierarchy of accountability.
Leaders translate the vision and mission of the institution into meaningful objectives for the people. They are expected to guide the organization towards continued viability as well as sustainability.
Leaders assess the business and cultural model of the enterprise, and facilitate the necessary adjustments such that the vitality of the organization may be preserved. Their goal is to generate sufficient returns on capital. Leaders also ensure that a budgetary structure and financial regulations are developed for the organization as a whole.
The mandate of leadership is to stage revolutions in organizational systems. At its best, this involves the reinvention of the institutional identity through the realization of a shared vision. Even in times of stability, leaders awaken the organization to new possibilities.
Leaders act as the chief representative of the organization in the larger society. They continually monitor trends in the external environment, and highlight the developments that are happening there.
Leaders assess what is socially, politically, and environmentally feasible. They spell out what the organization must do, in order to adapt to the external changes. Leaders usually communicate the direction and intent, and then step back to allow their executive colleagues to do the actual work.
Leaders welcome uncertainty. In fact, they employ it as a resource. Leaders draw upon an innate sense of interconnectedness, in order to relate together apparently diverse issues, events or matters. They leave situations open and fluid, rather than prematurely narrowing the field or the flow of information.
The judgment patterns of leaders are relatively free of preconceptions. A long-term strategic direction is the focus of their problem-solving efforts.
Finally, leaders look after the well being of the people. They continually shape the interconnections within the organization, so as to maintain congeniality in the working atmosphere.
Stratum VI (Business Group Head; Director; Governing Board Member)
At the sixth stratum of the organization, Business Group Heads or Directors are accountable for the performance of a cohesive network of independent enterprises or self-sufficient organizational units.
The mandate at this level becomes more holistic. It covers a cluster of discrete operating entities, either in the same territory or in multiple geographies. The challenge moves beyond the responsibility for a single domain, towards the membership of supervisory or governing boards. The response primarily involves the development of principles and frameworks for general application. Coordination and boundary issues affecting the different operating entities are suitably dealt with. The concern is to help the organization in becoming and remaining a good corporate citizen.
The work of directors demands a deep understanding of the political, economic, social, religious, technological and educational trends across the globe. These role holders gather data and intelligence about what is happening in these various spheres.
Directors are expected to continually probe for any unexpected sources of opportunity or instability that can impact the organization. They alert as well as protect the enterprise against excessive turbulence. Any external issues that present themselves are viewed from all the possible perspectives.
Directors help to establish the acceptable central as well as local degrees of freedom that can facilitate appropriate decision-making. For instance, joint ventures in a new geography or culture require a balance to be struck between the espoused values of the parent organization and the norms that arise from the local culture. Since these value sets are often quite different from each other, one set is bound to challenge the other. Thus, tolerance towards diversity is the key to success at the Director level.
The work of Group Business Heads or Supervisory Board members calls for the transcendence of their own limitations, as well as the provision of guidance to other people. Mentoring business executives towards the flowering of their individual career potential is thus a key mandate for these jobholders.
Mentorship is a supportive relationship between a caring individual who is ready to share knowledge, experience, and wisdom, with another who is willing to benefit from this exchange. It helps to unlock the courage to think and act beyond existing paradigms.
Founded upon a spirit of openness, empathy, and mutual respect, mentorship entails a series of supportive conversations and interventions that facilitate personal growth as well as capability development. It helps to build confidence and conviction in the mentee, towards the realization of professional aspirations in a personally fulfilling manner.
Stratum VII (Chairperson; Corporate Governor)
The Chairperson exists and functions at the seventh or the apex level of the organization. In many cases, this is a very large institution that is the microcosm of society itself. The central mandate of this role is to help sustain the viability of the enterprise for future generations.
Chairpersons are accountable for corporate governance. This entails legal and fiduciary responsibilities to society. Central to the art of governance is the ability to define and disseminate detailed institutional values. These are not only necessary for the business, but also set the limits within which everyone is expected to behave. Consonant values are the unifying force of any organization. To the extent that people can share common beliefs, desires & aspirations, they can commit themselves to work together.
Chairpersons are also responsible for determining how value can be established across all the activities of the corporation, in line with the overall corporate purpose. Of course, this is to be done in a way that satisfies a wide range of stakeholders. This part of the work includes setting the resource limits that govern the work at the operational and strategic levels of the organization. Chairpersons also seed and incubate many apparently peripheral initiatives that can offer a strategic advantage in the very long run.
The quest for good governance is first and foremost a journey of self-discovery, into the depths of one’s identity. In order to do justice to their role, chairpersons must reinvent their self-concept. Inner shifts in motives and values must be combined with an outer change in attitudes as well as behaviour.
Chairpersons are expected to motivate and inspire the entire stakeholder population through a variety of communication tools. The role requires an ability to proactively sense any significant shifts in the socio-economic context, and respond with tremendous sensitivity.
In other words, chairpersons must develop foresight and act with insight, based upon hindsight!
Work is an important source of self-esteem and respect for human beings.
When the work is designed in a manner that facilitates the workers in realizing their full potential, the natural output is not only stronger organizations but also a more vital and robust society. When people can come to work every day knowing what they can count on from their colleagues, peers and bosses, there is a huge impact on the business results as well as the quality of working life.
The establishment of a holistic structure, coupled with an appreciative mode of functioning, goes a long way towards developing a trust-based organization. Aligning appropriate levels of work complexity with the cognitive capacity of the employees in a hierarchy of seven accountability levels supports organizational effectiveness as well as individual fulfillment. This is the master key to people engagement.
Building holistic organizations is an applied art. Every case is unique, and requires specific comprehension for the creation of innovative solutions.
The next chapter details the case story of how the American Fortune 500 enterprise Whole Foods Market was built as a remarkably whole organization, in ways more than just its structure and culture.
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