An Ideal Organization – Nu Leadership Series

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Mohandas Gandhi

If some employees had their way, they would destroy their organizations and build a brand new one. This action goes counter to most managers’ belief that if they can simply repair the old organization, everything would work out. If I had a magic wand, I would design an organization that was flexible, sensitive to the socio-technical system, and responsive to the market. So, here’s a question to ponder: “how would employees’ behavior change if their organization implement a nontraditional structure?”

In theory, flatter organizations with a market focus should benefit followers. However, most workers won’t be better off in a non-traditional structure unless something else changes. From my 17 years experience with complex organizations, I have seen numerous restructuring initiatives. Some organizations jump on the newest management craze.

However, employees tend to hunker down and fight change covertly. This leaves executives wondering what happened. Handy, author of the Age of Paradox, cites this as another paradox by explaining, “They [organizations] expect their workers to be both more autonomous and more of a team, their managers to be more autonomous and more controlling.”

Managers fail to recognize knowledge workers by treating them like Industrial Age workers. Peters and Waterman, authors of In Search of Excellence, observe that highly successful companies have managers who understand workers. These leaders model the way, speak with one corporate voice, and listen to their employees. They argue that leadership fails when it concentrates on just corporate survival. They suggest that institutional survival is a matter of maintaining values and distinctive identity.

Therefore, unless leaders’ hearts change, organizational structure offers little value for high performing organizations in a global, competitive environment. Unfortunately, waving a magic wand cannot change this reality.


Handy, C. (1997). The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Peters, T. & Waterman, R. (1982). In Search of Excellence. New York: Warner Books.

© 2007 by Daryl D. Green