We all need systems savvy to survive in today’s increasingly complex business environment.
Systems savvy is the ability to mix together the technology tools of our work (everything from email to the size and type of tools a crew would use to build a fence), the way we organize our work (for example, teams spread all over the world, the size of fence-building crew, formal and informal leadership, hiring and pay plans), and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people we’re working with. You typically can’t just make a change to one of those three dimensions without making a balancing adjustment to the others.
That is a slightly rewritten paragraph from a prior post. The original talked about “weaving” rather than “mixing.”
The problem with weaving is that it implies that the components remain independent. Take a look at the cloth you’re wearing. Each of the threads is intertwined with others, but they are not blended. For effective organizational design we need our technology tools, organizational practices, and human capabilities to incorporate one another. We need to mix them together in a way that creates something new and powerful.
Sometimes this may mean a lot of one ingredient and not so much of the others: A face to face meeting may be about sharing knowledge. There might be some technology use (a white board) and some agreement about organizational practices (who’s leading the meeting and the agenda), but the focus is on the human knowledge and capabilities because that’s the best blend for the job. Other times the mix may be more evenly distributed: A multi-organization, video conferenced meeting would put more technology (the Internet, video cameras, presentation software) and organizational practices in the mix (scheduling decisions, who pays for what).
I would appreciate your help
Does the mixing metaphor work for you? Mixing has a strong heritage: cooking, chemistry, painting, music. If you think “mix,” can you envision the need to blend your technology, organization, and people options into a recipe for success? Is the paint image effective? What about an audio mixing board where the different sliders are technology tools, organizational practices, and human capabilities? (My Gen Y research assistant doesn’t think younger employees will resonate with my 20th century audio gear.) Is mixing better than weaving for making the point that we need to consider and carefully balance the design elements of work?