The Coherent Organization

Co·her·ent (k-hîrnt, -hr-) means

1. Sticking together; cohering.
2. Marked by an orderly, logical, and aesthetically consistent relation of parts: a coherent essay.
3. Physics Of, relating to, or having waves with similar direction, amplitude, and phase that are capable of exhibiting interference.

(The American Heritage Dictionary)

This post continues an ongoing conversation about The Coherent Organization. While I’ll focus on interchanges among Harold Jarche, Clark Quinn, and myself, as with everything at the Internet Time Alliance, the discussion bears the fingerprints of Charles Jennings, Jane Hart, and Paul Simbeck-Hampson as well.

The lead article in the current issue of Chief Learning Officer is Building a Performance Ecosystem by Clark Quinn. The article describes The Coherent Organization, the Internet Time Alliance‘s shorthand for a company where individuals are aligned with the organizational mission and information flows from outside in and back again in ways that accelerate work.

The underlying concept is that organizations and their people are members of many different types of networks, for example, communities of practice, the company social network, and close-knit collaborative work teams. You need to optimize participation in all of them. Harold Jarche and I hit on this in the midst of a social learning implementation project for a big financial services firm last year.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Harold’s schema drew on and expanded the work of our friend Lilia Efimova:

Harold applied Lilia’s concepts to a corporate network environment:

As Clark pointed out, “The benefits are clear: when folks have maximal information about what they’re expected to do, and minimal barriers to achieve their goals, the organization succeeds.”

At midyear, Harold, Clark, and I built on one another’s thoughts in public. Harold made a key addition: Work teams collaborate; learning networks cooperate; communities of practice do both.

The three of us believe that learning is work and work is learning. In his next post, Harold wrote that “All three of these structures are united by networked and social learning. These are necessary to not only do the work but to prepare for the work to be done: emergent practices.”

Yesterday Clark wrote about detailing the Coherent Organization. He’d populated our network clouds:

Clark then brought like items together and classified them by activity to produce this matrix:

Expanding on the model

Instead of talking about an organization, shouldn’t we really be talking about the Coherent Extended Enterprise? Everyone in the organization’s ecosystem needs to be on the same wavelength. The only way to do that in a world of constant change is through co-learning. Work and learning are converging, as we’ve said, but the workforce now includes lots of people who are not employees. They’re partners, distributors, suppliers, contractors, etc. This is the group we should focus on:

The concept of the value chain taught us that value and costs generated by suppliers and distributors are passed along to customers. Since learning improves performance, it’s in your interest to help everyone in the chain learn to work smarter. Most chief learning officers will tell you “This is not my department.” Pity.

Secret sauce

Businesses have been trying to promote passion in the workplace while keeping other emotions at bay. Denying people their emotions is de-humanizing. We have to start treating people like people. Emotion-driven business is the new frontier. That is why I want to shoehorn another network into Clark’s matrix for The Coherent Organization: the Personal Network.

More and more of my work involves making introductions. Sometimes a project consists of completing the dots and making the connections. For me, work/life balance is a fiction. Without my personal network, I’d cease to function.

Your personal network is where you shape your aspirations, validate what’s important to you, and let your emotions play out.

This will put a lot more boxes on Clark’s matrix but that’s a topic for next time.

Please add your two cents worth.

















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