The Sustainability Of Organizational Design Principles

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The myriad of organizational shapes and forms e.g., flat, matrix, chaordic, horizontal, etc., evidences the little knowledge most people have- even “experts”- about organizational design principles.

Scientific research conducted over the past century has proven that humans can organize themselves at the core level, i.e., genotypic or fundamental level, in only two ways:

  1. Restrictively


2. Enhancively*

These two structures are pervasive throughout the world and even the universe itself. One can view the entire universe as an expansive structure and the black holes as restrictive structures.

At a more immediate level, we are all too familiar with bureaucratic structures and their stifling restrictiveness. Even though bureaucracy’s dominant-hierarchy played a major role securing the success of the industrial revolution, the bureaucratic structures’ inability to sustain themselves after the 1950s, when our world began to experience turbulence and uncertainty, has been patently evident and proved them not only completely incapable of dealing with uncertainty but also as the reason behind the myriad of pathological bureaucratic implications such as lack of responsibility, collaboration, accountability, just to name a few.

Much less known, yet extremely powerful and sustainable organizational structures, are the Participative (Non-dominant) Hierarchies or expansive structures. Real-life examples are the structures formed at the very grass-roots level when facing an immediate calamity or important issues to deal with. Although there is a clear hierarchy, as there should be, it is not dominant. Thus, ensuring transparency and accountability from day one, taking into account the views and perspectives from every stakeholder, making no discrimination, and thereby ensuring its sustainability based on a long-term ideal and common objectives and goals. An ideal, by definition is unattainable in a given time/space but endlessly approachable and eventually can become attainable.

The sustainability of these participative non-dominant hierarchies is based on the behavioral change of those within them, going from mere goal-seeking individuals to ideal-seeking visionaries. The synergies created by ideal-seeking behavior can be seen in companies like Amazon and Netflix.

The greatest competitive advantage is based on the Human Source (foolishly called “Resource”) and the power released under an enhancive non-dominant hierarchy!

*There is also Laisser Faire but this is a non-structure, thus, not a viable option.

Here’s to the Health and the Sustainability of your Organizational Design Principles!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an independent consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 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.

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