Volume 10, Number 12
Should the New Organization Look (and Think) Like?
Kilmann is a professor
of Organization and Management at the University of Pittsburgh.
He is also president of Organizational Design Consultants,
a firm specializing in business systems transformation (www.kilmann.com).
He is author of Quantum Organizations (Davies-Black, Palo Alto, CA, 2001).
In the movie 2001,
the ship’s main computer, HAL, learned to read lips, think, and
then act on its own. In the year 2001, it is not a computer that could determine
our well-being, but interrelated, interconnected
mega-organizations that have taken on a life of their own.
Today, as we must
increasingly depend on organizations and institutions to address
all our social, economic, political, biological, psychological,
spiritual, and environmental problems, achieving organizational
transformation may be one of our most important challenges.
In the last
century, specialization was the driving force of progress. But this “divide and conquer” approach created stifling
bureaucracy and widespread fragmentation.
Success now demands that people first see and then adapt to
all the dynamic interconnections among new technologies, markets,
organizations, and stakeholders—while embracing speed and
managers and executives must find innovative ways to meet the
challenges posed by new information and its applications,
globalization, rapid change, and intensifying competition.
This requires a new way of thinking.
One of the first
actions in a company that intends to thrive is to ask which of
today’s “truths” in business are actually “myths.”
Here are some common myths about business success and the
truth about what is required for an organization to embrace this
new thinking so it can enjoy future success.
Work teams, departments, and even whole organizations
should have an identifiable set of values, beliefs, and goals so
that their individual members will feel a strong sense of
camaraderie, team spirit, loyalty, and healthy competition.
Such identification often controls how members think,
see, and behave. Them-versus-us
bonding limits how members will define problems and where they
will go to look for solutions.
In the new organization, active participants will maintain
relationships with all others they have ever worked with before,
including other subunits and those from past jobs.
Forming, developing, and sustaining both within-group and
across-group relationships empowers organization-wide commitment
and thus fosters a greater potential for system-wide
If designed correctly, performance appraisal, incentive,
and promotion practices can be used to inspire and to positively
In traditional systems, rewards are exchanged for
results. In the new
organization, rewards are given for high performance, determined
by behavior. Thus, the
very concept of pay-for-performance has to be redefined. Furthermore, his new model requires members to self-design,
self-implement, and self-regulate their own reward system.
External control, then, evolves into internal commitment.
Surveys, discussions, meetings, and supervisor/employee
one-on-ones are all important ways to keep the communication
flowing in all directions.
Unfortunately, when employees bring important problems to
management in traditional organizations, management hears,
but doesn’t listen. This generally
leads to frustration, anger, apathy, and eventually, passivity.
Until organizations address important underlying
dysfunctions in their company culture, communication will remain
superficial and ineffective, no matter how well intentioned.
The new-economy debacle is proof enough that
well-established, tried-and-true business models work best.
Newfangled change initiatives only reinvent the wheel.
The likelihood of transforming an old, large, complacent,
hierarchical organization into a revitalized, self-aware,
self-managing, adaptive one is minuscule if management insists on
clinging to what worked in the past.
Lightning-fast changes in the world economy, individual’s
desire for workplace fulfillment, and complicated
demands/opportunities of technology now require a radically
different, integrated approach that overhauls the very structure
of the traditional organization.
There are leaders and there are followers.
Some employees don’t want to be self-initiated.
They need structure, and they like having defined roles and
In authoritarian organizations, individuals become
demoralized and passive. When
members are required to participate in self-designing and
self-managing their own organizational systems, they will rise to
the occasion. The
culture of the new organization is infused with creativity,
self-awareness, self-motivation, change-responsiveness—and a
sense of ownership along with exhilarating success.
the Corporate Brain
re-engineering, organizational learning, and other change
initiatives have attempted to offer practical solutions to this
challenge. But what
has been lacking is a completely integrated approach for leading,
managing, and organizing for the new millennium.
always searching for new ways to survive and thrive—for example,
what does it take to create altogether new products and services
that will capture more customers, gain market share, and
dramatically improve profitability?
The questions are the same, but the answers have to be
stunningly different now. The
solution is to rewire the corporate brain, to get managers and
employees to “think out of the box.”
is the integration of the left brain (linear, verbal, logical
thought) with right brain (holistic, visual, emotional) functions.
On a purely scientific level, when a person is faced with
an intense, unexpected, unfamiliar experience, a rapid, chaotic
firing of neurons serves to integrate left- and right-brain
aspects of reality into a new—holographic—understanding.
teams, and then whole organizations to engage in quantum thinking
is the first step to organizational transformation.
• must be learned by all members if it is to become a new way
of life for the entire organization
• must be firmly embedded in the culture so that new members
are taught out-of-the-box thinking by their coworkers
• must be officially recognized and actively supported by the
company’s reward system, so it counts.
for Quantum Thinking
can and must be learned, modeled, and taught in today’s
purpose is to provide new categories and relationships for
resolving complex problems. Here’s
how it works:
Select a key decision, action, problem, or
List the relevant stakeholders inside and outside
Write down the “hidden assumptions” for each
assumptions are all the things an individual takes for granted as
true in order to believe that his or her conclusion is correct.
Identify the most important assumptions.
Identify the assumptions that are clearly false.
Highlight uncertain assumptions (not sure if they
are true or false).
Collect information about uncertain assumptions.
Rewrite important assumptions so they are both
certain and true.
Proceed with new assumptions—and a new mindset.
organization in which quantum thinking was imbedded in the
workplace culture. What
would you have? You
would have a network of self-aware people, working in concert,
conscious of each other’s goals, priorities, and needs.
organizational transition at this level results in:
• Increasing interconnections among industries, markets,
organizations, and organizational members
• Radically improved infrastructures, systems, and processes
• New levels of organizational success and economic value
• New heights of personal meaning, fulfillment, and