In his latest book, Harvard Business School Professor, John Kotter, argues that established hierarchical managerial structures do not provide the agility for organisations to respond sufficiently quickly to take advantages of the narrow windows of opportunity that present themselves. Kotter's solution is that firms should re-organise themselves to be able to cope with the demands of an increasingly changing world. In particular, firms should augment their their hierarchical structures with a network comprised of volunteers drawn from a range of levels and divisions within the organisation. Thus the firm would have a dual-operating system with the hierarchical structure providing day-to-day reliable management and the network providing agile strategic leadership. Kotter believes that this structure existed in most firms at a much earlier stage of their evolution.
The following YouTube clip provides an excellent summary of the Kotter's main arguments:
At the heart of Kotter's argument is the concept of the "Big Opportunity":
A Big Opportunity is something that can potentially lead to significant outcomes if the possibility is exploited well enough and fast enough. . . . A Big Opportunity is not a "vision" . . .Our Iceberg is Melting.)
A Big Opportunity is also not any form of "strategy" or "strategic initiative." pp.133-36
Urgency in the sense that I am using the word here, means that significant numbers of people wake up each morning and have, somewhere in their heads and hearts, a compelling desire to do something to move the organisation towards a big strategic opportunity. p.112This was a very thought-provoking read and the advantages of the dual-operating structure are clear. It was easy to see what "B" looks like, but the practicalities of how to make the transition from an established hierarchical structure to a dual-operating system were less clear. Kotter endeavours to share his experiences of working with a number of firms who have successfully moved to this model; however, I found that the case studies given in the book are so generalised that I was left wanting more detail about how each organisation had managed to make what is undoubtedly a difficult step towards the new structure.