Innovator's Dilemma (Christensen), Venture Capitalists at Work (Shah), Founders at Work (Livingston), The Hard Thing About Hard Things (Horowitz), Zero to One (Thiel), The Myths of Innovation (Berkun), Venture Deals (Feld), Never split the difference (Voss), Contrarian Investment Strategies (Dremen), Rework (Fried), Navalmanack (Jorgenson)
Read for the Sabbatical:
The Art of Community (Vogl) [pretty good!], The Toyota Way (Liker) [not great], Learning Agile (Stellman) [pretty good], Understanding Michael Porter (Magretta) [just OK],Margin of Safety (Klarman) [too basic but would have been good 10 years ago], Seven Powers (Helmer) [good but academic], An Elegant Puzzle: System of Engineering Management (Larson) [great], Team of Teams (McChrystal) [just OK], Principles (Dalio) [pretty good], High Growth Handbook (Gil) [not bad],
Images of Organization - Gareth Morgan
- Metaphors/styles of organization may need to vary within organization subunits due to the characteristic of their work or environment.
- Organization as machine - Think Taylorism. Scientific management. Seeks to mold humans to fit the requirements of the machine vs. building the organization around employee strengths/potential. Optimized for goals, structure, and efficiency. Works well under conditions where machines work well, where there's a straightforward task and stable environment. Repeatability, standardization, and precision are valued. 'human' parts of the system need to be compliant. Think fast food restaurants. Utility companies. Works poorly under changing conditions. Results in mindless bureaucracy and coordination problems. Lack of flexibility. 'Not my job' syndrome. Dehumanizing
- Organization as organism - orgs as living systems that exist within and are molded by the external environment. Found in environments of higher competition/turbulence. Think high tech firms. Optimized for adaptability in pursuit of survival. Important ideas: ecology, interdependence, feedback loops/homeostasis, variation and selection. Emphasis that, similar to nature, there is no one best way of doing things - it all depends on the task/environment. Emphasizes small multidisciplinary teams over divisions. Downsides of this approach: de-emphasizes a sense of agency...that orgs themselves are also shaping their environment, not just reacting to it. What is natural or adapted to the environment is not always good. It also assumes interorganizational unity which may not always be accurate.
- Organization as brain/learning system - intelligent action can emerge from a fairly minimal set of key rules, making the whole system appear to have well-coordinated intelligence. Optimizes for information processing or learning. How well does the organization 1) sense/anticipate change in the environment 2) translate this information into changed behavioral norms/guidelines 3) detect deviations from these norms 4) initiate corrective action. Does the organization have an accurate internal model of itself? Does the organization focus its attention on the highest priority action/topic at the right time? Does the organization remember what it has learned previously (and forgotten what it is no longer important to know)? Think Toyota and the toyota production system. Evolved over time bottom up and hard to copy directly. More about process than structure.
- Organization as culture - What are the shared values, frames, and narratives that make the organization possible? How does the group created, communicate, and sustain shared meaning? This operates across multiple axes: occupational, national, tenure, age, division, etc. Benefits to this frame: emphasizes how almost all organizational actions are symbolic of a shared system of meaning, created by member ideologies, beliefs, language, norms, and rituals. Helps us understand that organizations exist because of a shared social reality. Also a useful frame because it highlights that organizational change is difficult because it's at its core, cultural change. Just changing the rules, systems, or processes is not enough. You have to change everyone's shared understanding of reality. Negatives of this frame: the logical endpoint of "orgs as shared understanding of reality" is a dystopian, corporate cult where managers have the imperative to manipulate employee ideology.
- Organization as politics / systems of government - how is power gained? how are decisions made and conflicts managed? How is prosocial behavior encouraged / enforced? All organizations have systems of rule: often a mix of autocracy (rule by individual), bureaucracy (rule by document/words), technocracy (rule by experts), democracy. This metaphor encourages us to see organizations as loose collectives of people with divergent interests, working together for the sake of their income, career, status, etc. Organization power derives from formal authority, control of resources, decision processes, boundaries, knowledge, technology, symbolism, interpersonal alliances, and tribe. Orgs can be understand as 'mini states' that either assume conflict is 1) rare and harmony/unity are the norm 2) inherent and a product of good decision making 3) inevitable, radical, and part of a larger tribal/class conflict that will change structure of organization. Pro of this metaphor: helps us remember that politics are an inevitable feature of group life and provides a framework for thinking about power and conflict. Organizational goals, policies, technologies, etc all have a political dimension. Orgs are no necessarily rational to their stated goals. Negatives of this frame: everything becomes political, increasing the actual politics in play.
- Organization as psychic prison - orgs can become traps of socially constructed thinking, preventing us from viewing the world in different ways. As shared systems of meaning, they become intertwined with our identity. Our roles are realities as we objectify ourselves in the goods or services we make and deliver, organizational behavior being driven by anxieties about ourselves and how we interact with the world. This metaphor helps us understand the difficulties of organizational change, that rituals, processes, and values are not just corporate artifacts but wrapped up in our identities. It speaks to the value of "change agents" who create "areas of illusion" where people can reflect, feel out, and explore the options they face. This metaphor helps us not over-rationalize organizational behavior as a logical, driven as it is by emotions like attachment, anxiety, aggression, fear, or desire
- Organization as system of change/flux -Organization as complex adaptive system. It is difficult to plan for the future. The role of the manager is more to create the conditions/context for self organization to occur, and recognize when new constraints/context/instability are needed. This frame reminds us that small changes can have large effects. It is sometimes impossible to predict what will happen and the best strategy is to experiment. Causality is a complicated/topic. Optionality is valued. Management is more about nudging than imposing structure. Creating/removing feedback loops. Identifying points of leverage.
- Organization as instrument of domination - Why do we organize? Because more "groupish" humans were better able to dominate and outcompete less "groupish" humans. So, one way to think about organizations is ways to create and sustain power over others. This framework because it reminds us that even the most benevolent/democratic forms of organization involve some kind of coercion/domination over others. Many corporations are as large and powerful as nation states and seek power/influence in similar ways. This metaphor draws our attention to the double-edged nature of organizational goals. Increased profitability may damage the environment or employee health. Goals are not abstractly rational. They are always rational for someone or some group.
7 Powers: Foundations of Business Strategy