Picture from Delta7.com
Did you laugh when you saw this? I did. I laughed because the picture tells the truth that we dare not speak about. That the only thing that keeps the formal organization going are the informal, unseen, human, social networks that both inhabit it and cross its boundaries.
What really lives and works today are social networks. But all the rules that are used in the traditional organization are based on the central metaphor that it is a machine and that people are merely components.
This is the disconnect that Jon and I wish to talk about in this new series on HR and IT.
There are many reasons why the old model is not a good one any more. The disconnect between the machine model and our humanity makes us ill.
This slide is taken for Marmot’s historic study of the UK Civil Service. (The Whitehall Study) What it shows is that our hierarchies kill us. The issue is control. Those in the lowest levels are 5 times more likely to die of Heart Disease than those on the far left, the Senior Leadership. High demands and low control cause our immune system to be compromised. The traditional organization is all about control. CHD is not the only outcome. At my old employer, a major bank, more than 60% of the women staff used anti depressants. We were typical.
We are miserable inside these kinds of organizations – if a better alternative arrives we will go there. Many of my kids age group, about 30, will not work in such places. They just can’t cope with the control.
These organizations cannot cope with change. And Change is all there is right now. We also know how unresponsive these organizations are to change. I was stunned to know this week that most governments in North America still use Word Perfect! This of course is tiny when compared to facing the challenges that confront us all.
There are new organizations based on natural models that are now at scale and making a difference in the world. They are now ready as a model, to be applied everywhere. You think I exaggerate? Let’s look at these numbers.
Skype has 500 million customers/users and only 600 staff. How many people work for your Telco?
Mozilla has about 350 million and so does Wikipedia. Mozilla has 375 staff and Wikipedia 30.
Back in 2007, Craigslist had the 7th highest number of page views of any web company. It had 23 on the payroll. Yahoo, the # 1 had 10,000. Time Warner #2 had 90,000. No wonder the newspapers lost the personals and the locals and could never get them back.
Back in the 1990’s Visa International had 355 million users, 23,000 partners and operated in more than 200 countries but had only 3,000 employees. The NatWest at that time had 81,000 and B of A 91,000 and a fraction of the scale. Here is more current information
All these organizations are designed as natural networks. They use Group Forming as their value proposition.
In the next few weeks, we will talk about what is it about these natural network models that make them so effective? What are the new rules? Why does social media make so much sense in the network model? Why is it so hard to install any of this in the traditional model?
How can a traditional organization stand up to this? After all an artisan weaver could not stand up to the big mill. So once again, a better model will trump the lesser. The industrialization of the world took less than 50 years to be dominant. How long will it take for the natural model to supplant the mechanical?
Is this something that you should know about?
There will be a lot of pain along the way. Especially for those that get caught by the transition. But there is good news. I think that we are about to return to a world where mankind is no longer separated by his tools and processes from nature but is in fact ironically taken home by his new tool set. The plow took us to a cold inhuman and unnatural machine world – the internet and the metaphor that it embodies will return us home. Home to a world where we live again inside the metaphor and rules of nature herself.