Facing Uncertainty/Complexity? Anticipate!

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The greatest certainty that every human being has is that no one gets out alive from this dimension. At least, not in the way we all know.

Despite this inexorable axiom, the vast majority of people in the world live as if they would never die, yet they die as if they had never lived.

In a world where the greatest concern (conscious or subconscious) is uncertainty/complexity, the need to develop an ever-greater agility to become proactively adaptive or, ideally, to create or at least anticipate change, is fundamental not only to maintaining a competitive advantage but, above all, to stay on the top!

Most organizations respond to challenges by adding teams, functions, etc., making their own structure increasingly complicated with a plethora of processes and policies that slow down every decision and hinder collaboration across the entire organization, thus reinforcing the silo effect.

Organizational complexity imposes a tremendous cost, not only in terms of employee engagement and productivity but obviously also in term of the manager’s ability to meet the desired goals and objectives.

A Boston Consulting Group survey found that three-quarters of business leaders believed complexity was making it harder to meet business goals. Yet only 17% believed their current efforts would resolve the issue.

Understanding how to deal with uncertainty and complexity to get the desired results without adding more layers, processes, and silos is the crux of the problem.

Rather than adding organizational elements, leaders need to understand the desired employee behavior thus reshaping the context in which employees work so that they make the right decisions on their own.

This is what we, at SSI, call transforming goal-seeking behavior into ideal-seeking behavior by integrating sustainability into organizational design!

In this sense, knowledge of the organizational design principles, both personally and professionally, is vitally important.

The principles of organizational design established by Fred Emery and Eric Trist at the Tavistock Institute in London in 1963 are now more relevant than ever.

The reason is obvious. The need to become pro-actively-adaptive has been, and will continue to be, ever more crucial.

In spite of the simplicity of the design principles, or precisely for that reason, its strength is enormous.

In short, we have two options to organize ourselves, both personally and professionally:

  1. Restrictively

We know that it is impossible to deal with the increasingly numerous and relevant uncertainties with restrictive structures. Therefore, the only option is to develop an expansive structure according to our own circumstances.

The best way, to date, to develop expansive organizational structures is through the Search Conference and the Participative Design Workshop as elaborated over more than six decades by Fred and Merrelyn Emery.

Let’s make uncertainty & complexity our best allies!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.


Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is the Dean of Woxsen School of Arts & Design and an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 25 + years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

Note: The comments presented here are the full responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Sustainable Systems International or Woxsen School of Arts & Design.

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Dean at Woxsen School of Arts & Design

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