Remember when your organization was simple and you only had a handful of things to focus on? How did everything become so complex? Well, that’s what happens when organisations grow. They enter into:
- More markets
- More products
- More channels
- More processes
- Introduce new systems
- Follow more laws
- Face various risks
In no time, leaders of these organisations face the challenge of coordinating a multi-dimensional and interconnected environment. They start to struggle with designing the right operating model and keep ending up with a multi-level hierarchy in some convoluted matrix.
These layered and complex structures are significantly slowing down decision making in the organisation and as a consequence prevent a fast response to changing environments.
Think of a kettle boiling on a stove. As the water starts to heat up, it slowly starts to boil from the bottom. Only minutes later does it start to boil throughout and eventually you see the steam emanating out of the spout. As a leader in a hierarchical organisation, you have no idea what’s brewing because there is a lag in time before you get hit with the steam.
So what is the answer?
In a recent article, Mckinsey wrote:
“Future-ready organizations, by contrast, structure themselves in ways that make them fitter, flatter, faster, and far better at unlocking considerable value. Their goal isn’t to eradicate hierarchy so much as make it less important as an organizing mechanism. They radically flatten the organization and adopt the simplest P&L structure possible, reinforcing business objectives with clear, strong performance management and other mechanisms”.
How can this be achieved?
Strategic Landscape Architecture (SLA)
We define Strategic Landscape Architecture as the understanding, mapping and managing of the enterprise ecosystem at a granular level, organized in one view, along multiple strategic dimensions.
Let’s look at the attributes of Strategic Landscape Architecture:
- Birdseye perspective
- Parts and whole
In the process of modelling the enterprise ecosystem, considering the most important angles or dimensions of it to get a clear picture is essential. An enterprise contains many dimensions and therefore is sometimes considered as a hypercube or a complex system.
For example, a property company would assume they are only managing one dimension being properties. However, they will soon realise that they also need to manage clients, services, client journeys and capabilities making them a multi-dimensional company.
Having a sound understanding of the organisations relevant strategic dimension is a critical pre-requisite for defining a sensible corporate strategy. Currently, a good practice is to use these dimensions as guardrails for defining strategic goals. For each dimension, a goal or an outcome statement of intent is specified with the purpose to orchestrate the ecosystem to move as one towards a common vision. As well as designing the landscape architecture.
Strategic dimensions have correlations between them and they cannot be seen independently.
In the aforementioned example, buildings will have a correlation with the clients who occupy them and the services the client needs. Understanding and mapping these interconnections is a main source of growth.
The study of landscapes (ecosystems) and how they connect in nature is called landscape theory. This body of knowledge brings interesting insights into how organisations can approach the challenge of exploiting interconnectivity for growth.
Now that the dimensions are clear, we should break them down into the most sensible granular parts in order to analyse and manage these parts.
Granularity is the fine-grained understanding of all the parts of the ecosystem.
“To uncover pockets of opportunity, executives need to dig down to deeper levels of their businesses and organizations. In other words, they need to analyze their businesses at a more granular level.” – The Granularity Of Growth by Viguerie, Smit & Bachai.
With implementing granularity, our intention is to progressively move away from aggregation.
Granularity enables us to visualise and manage all the smaller parts in one true view. These smaller granular parts can be seen as performance cells of the organisation.
Each granular unit (performance cell) contains a set of data that can be seen as the nucleus (information centre) of this performance cell. It provides information about the cell, its status and health and how this cell has developed over time.
These performance cells, correctly defined will make up the ecosystem as a whole. Instead of having random data sets, one can rather organize data into performance cells. The art is to make data findable, accessible, and reusable in the enterprise landscape in real-time.
But more importantly, the data visualised in these granular performance cells, across the landscape will fast show emerging patterns and trends. This is crucial for course-correcting the strategy faster, preventing wasted efforts and potential failure.
Visualize a horizon, you see something in the distance and it slowly becomes bigger and bigger. You knew that something was coming because you could see it in the distance. In essence that is how having a granular view of your organization works. Horizon scanning is a methodical outlook utilized to detect early signs of potentially significant developments. These can be early signals, trends, twists of fate, persistent problems, risks, threats as well as matters at the margins of current thinking that question past theories.
5. Birdseye perspective
Having information is not good enough. For our brain to interpret and process information quickly, the way we order and visualize information is critical.
Using grids with tiles that contain data provide a comprehensive birds-eye view. This allows for fast visual detection of patterns in a dynamically shifting environment (dancing landscapes).
6. The parts and the whole
A team will either manage one or multiple of these performance cells. Whilst seeing and managing each performance cell in the landscape individually for value, the collection of the performance cells (the entire landscape) needs to be managed as a portfolio.
Managing a landscape is a different ball game. The idea here is to align, identify overlaps, dependencies and synergies and to prioritise investment that will have a significant impact on value creation across the landscape.
It may be interesting to note that we foresee that the future organisation will have a leadership team organized by, and accountable for, a strategic landscape. Where reporting relationships today are 1 to 8 on average, it will be 1 to 150.
There is no doubt that in time organisational structures will have to become radically flatter in order to gain speed and adapt faster. The journey towards this end can be accelerated by taking a first step toward it through identifying and visualizing the granular landscapes and enrich them with data.
A further step in the right direction is to define strategies and programs over these landscapes based on the emerging insights. Ideally, this would be done by a team consisting of members from the strategy, execution, enterprise architecture and data enablement departments.
We, at Scientrix have developed the capability including a technology platform to support organisations in managing strategic landscapes end to end.