Tap networks to drive big change

We’re not all Googles. Most organisations aren’t set up to foster intellectual debate and the free flow of ideas. Today’s enterprise has evolved to oversee myriad activities and deliver results with machine-like efficiency. Many do that well, thanks in large part to the hierarchy and management processes that maintain and drive the machine. What hierarchical organisations don’t do well, says leading change thinker and author, John Kotter, is transformation. Hierarchy opposes change, but in a world of ever-increasing change, he says, it’s impossible to thrive without “timely transformations”. To address this, Kotter suggests overlaying the hierarchy with a loose internal network. “While the hierarchy is as important as it has always been for optimising work,” he says, “the network is where big change happens. It allows a company to more easily spot big opportunities and then change itself to grab them.” Unlike Vijay Govindarajan, who argues for the creation of special teams to drive innovation, Kotter envisages a “more teaming, egalitarian and adaptive” network, one that would identify major environmental change and redirect or even reshape the hierarchy to respond and take advantage of tomorrow’s possibilities.


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