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Differencesinorganizationaldesigndontnecessarilymakesomeorganizationsbetterthanothers—justbettersuitedtodifferentpurposes。

Anystyleoforganizationmustaccountforitsmodelsofownership(thewaytasksgetdelegated,assumed,executed)andresponsibility(thewayaccountabilityforthosetasksgetsdistributedandenforced)。

Conventionalorganizationsandopenorganizationstreattheseissuesdifferently,however,andthosedifferencecanbejarringforanyonehoppingtransitioningfromoneorganizationalmodeltoanother。

Buttransitionsareripeforstumblingover—oops,Imean,learningfrom。

Letsdothat。

Ownershipexplained

Inmostorganizations(andaccordingtotypicalprojectmanagementstandards),workonprojectsproceedsinfivephases:

Initiation:Assessprojectfeasibility,identifydeliverablesandstakeholders,assessbenefits

Planning(Design):Craftprojectrequirements,scope,andschedule;developcommunicationandqualityplans

Executing:Managetaskexecution,implementplans,maintainstakeholderrelationships

Monitoring/Controlling:Manageprojectperformance,risk,andqualityofdeliverables

Closing:Sign-offoncompletionrequirements,releaseresources

Thelistaboveisnotexhaustive,butIdliketoaddonephasethatisoftenoverlooked:theAdoptionphase,frequentlyneededforstrategicprojectswhereachangetothecultureororganizationisrequiredforclosingorcompletion。

Adoption:Socializingtheworkoftheproject;providingcommunication,training,orintegrationintoprocessesandstandardworkflows。

Examiningprojectphasesisonewaycontrasttheexpressionofownershipandresponsibilityinorganizations。

Twomodels,contrasted

Inmyexperience,ownershipinatraditionalsoftwareorganizationworkslikethis。

Amanagerorseniortechnicalassociateinitiatesaprojectwithseniorstakeholdersand,withtheauthoritytochampionandguidetheproject,theybestowtheprojectonanassociateatsomepointduringtheplanningandexecutionstages。

Frequently,butnotalways,thegroundworkorfundamentaldesignoftheworkhasalreadybeendefinedandapproved—sometimesevenpartiallysolved。

Employeesareexpectedtoseetheprojectthroughexecutionandmonitoringtocompletion。

Employeescuttheirteethonastarterproject,wheretheyprovetheirabilitiestoamanagementchain(forexample,Irecallseveralsuchstarterprojectsthatwerealreadydefinedbyamanagerandarchitect,andIwasassignedtohelpimplementthem)。

Employeesdoingagoodjobonaprojectforwhichtheyreresponsiblegetrewardedwithadditionalopportunities,likeacovetedassignment,anewproject,orincreasedresponsibility。

Anassociateactingasownerofworkisresponsibleandaccountableforthatwork(ifsomeone,somewhere,doesntdotheirjob,thentheresponsibleemployeeeitherdoesthenecessaryworkherselforalertsamanagertotheproblem。

)Asenseofownershipbeginstofeelstableovertime:Employeesgenerallyworkonthesameprojects,andinthesameareasforanextendedperiod。

Forsomeemployees,itmeansthedevelopmentofdeepexpertise。

Thatsbecausethesocialnetworkhastighterintegrationbetweenpeopleandtheworktheydo,somovingaroundandchangingrolesandprojectsisratherdifficult。

Thisprocessworksdifferentlyinanopenorganization。

Associatescontinuallydefinetheparametersofresponsibilityandownershipinanopenorganization—typicallyinlightoftheirinterestsandpassions。

Associateshavemoreagencytoperformallthestagesoftheprojectthemselves,ratherthanhavepre-definedprojectsassignedtothem。

Thisplacesadditionalemphasisonleadershipskillsinanopenorganization,becausetheprocessislessaboutonegroupofpeoplemakingdecisionsforothers,andmoreabouthowanassociatemanagesresponsibilitiesandownership(whetherornottheyroughlyfollowtheprojectphaseswhilebeinginclusive,adaptable,andcommunity-focused,forexample)。

Beingresponsibleforallprojectphasescanmakeownershipfeelmoreriskyforassociatesinanopenorganization。

Proposinganewproject,designingit,andleadingitsimplementationtakesinitiativeandcourage—especiallywhennoneofthisispre-definedbyleadership。

Itsimportanttogetcontinuousbuy-in,whichcomeswithquestions,criticisms,andresistancenotonlyfromleadersbutalsofrompeers。

Bydefault,inopenorganizationsthismakesassociatesleaders;theydomuchthesameworkthathigher-levelleadersdoinconventionalorganizations。

Andincidentally,thisiswhyJimWhitehurst,inTheOpenOrganization,cautionsusaboutthefullpoweroftransparencyandthetrickinessofgettingpeoplesrealopinionsandthoughtswhetherwelikethemornot。

Theriskisnotashighinatraditionalorganization,becauseinthoseorganizationsleadersmanagesomeofitbyshieldingassociatesfromheadydiscussionsthatarise。

TherewardinanOpenOrganizationismoreopportunity—offersofnewroles,promotions,raises,etc。

muchlikeinaconventionalorganization。

Yetinthecaseofopenorganizations,associateshavedevelopedreputationsofexcellencebasedontheirowninitiatives,ratherthanonpre-sanctionedopportunitiesfromleadership。

Thinkingaboutadoption

Anydiscussionofownershipandresponsibilityinvolvesaddressingtheissueofbuy-in,becauseowningaprojectmeansweareaccountabletooursponsorsandusers—ourstakeholders。

Weneedourstakeholderstobuy-intoourideaanddirection,orweneeduserstoadoptaninnovationwevecreatedwithourstakeholders。

Achievingbuy-inforideasandworkisimportantineachtypeoforganization,anditsdifficultinbothtraditionalandopensystems—butfordifferentreasons。

Openorganizationsbetterallowhighlymotivatedassociates,whoareambitiousandskilled,todrivetheircareers。

Butsupportfortheirideasisrequiredacrosstheorganization,ratherthanfromleadershipalone。

Penetratingatraditionalorganizationscloselyknitsocialtiescanbedifficult,andittakestime。

Insuchcommand-and-controlenvironments,onewouldthinkthatemployeesaresimplyforcedtodowhateverleaderswantthemtodo。

Insomecasesthatstrue(e。

g。

atravelreimbursementsystem)。

However,withmoreinnovativeprograms,thismaynotbethecase;theadoptionofaprogram,tool,orprocesscanbedifficulttoachievebyfiat,justlikeinanopenorganization。

Andyettheseorganizationstendtoreduceredundanciesofworkandeffort,becauseownershiphereinvolvesleadersexertingresponsibilityoverclearlydefineddomains(andbecausethosedomainsdontchangefrequently,knowingwhoswho—whosincharge,whotocontactwitharequestorinquiryoridea—canbeeasier)。

Openorganizationsbetterallowhighlymotivatedassociates,whoareambitiousandskilled,todrivetheircareers。

Butsupportfortheirideasisrequiredacrosstheorganization,ratherthanfromleadershipalone。

Pointsofcontactandsourcesofimmediatesupportcanbelessobvious,andthismeansachievingownershipofaprojectoracquiringnewresponsibilitytakesmoretime。

Andeventhensomeonesideamaynevergetadopted。

Aprojectsownercanchange—andtheideaofownershipitselfismoreflexible。

Ideasthatdontgetadoptedcanevenbeabandoned,leavingagreatideaunimplementedorincomplete。

Becauseanyassociatecanownanideainanopenorganization,theseorganizationstendtoexhibitmoreredundancy。

(Somepeopleimmediatelythinkthismeanswastedeffort,butIthinkitcanaugmenttheimplementationandadoptionofinnovativesolutions。

Bycomparingtheseorganizations,wecanalsoseewhyJimWhitehurstcallsthiskindofculturechaoticinTheOpenOrganization)。

Twomodelsofownership

Inmyexperience,Iveseenverycleardifferencesbetweenconventionalandopenorganizationswhenitcomestotheissuesofownershipandresponsibility。

Inantraditionalorganization:

Icouldntownthingsaseasily

Ifeltfrustrated,wantingtotakeinitiativeandalwaysneedingpermission

Icouldmoreeasilyseewhowasresponsiblebecausestakeholderresponsibilitywasmoreclearlysanctionedanddefined

Icouldmoreeasilyfindpeople,becausetheorganizationalnetworkwasmorefixedandstable

Imoreclearlysawwhatneededtohappen(becauseleadershipwasmoreinvolvedintellingme)。

Overtime,Ivelearnedthefollowingaboutownershipandresponsibilityinanopenorganization:

Peoplecanfeelgoodaboutwhattheyaredoingbecausethestructurerewardsbehaviorthatsmoreself-driven

Responsibilityislessclear,especiallyinsituationswheretheresnoleader

Incaseswhereopenorganizationshavesharedresponsibility,thereisthepossibilitythatnooneinthegroupidentifiedwithbeingresponsible;oftenthereislackofroleclarity(whoshouldownthis?

)

Morepeopleparticipate

Someonesleadershipskillsmustbestrongerbecauseeveryoneisontheirown;youaretheleader。

Makingitwork

Onthesubjectofownership,eachtypeoforganizationcanlearnfromtheother。

Theimportantthingtorememberhere:Dontmakechangestooneopenorconventionalvaluewithoutconsideringallthevaluesinbothorganizations。

Soundconfusing?

Maybethesetipswillhelp。

Ifyoureamoreconventionalorganizationtryingtoactmoreopenly:

Allowassociatestotakeownershipoutofpassionorinterestthatalignwiththestrategicgoalsoftheorganization。

Thisenactmentofmeritocracycanhelpthembuildareputationforexcellenceandexecution。

Butdontbeafraidsprinkleinabitofhigh-levelperspectiveinthespiritoftransparency;thatis,anassociateshouldclearlycommunicateplanstotheirleadership,sotheinitiativedoesntcreateirrelevantorunneededprojects。

Involvinganentirecommunity(aswhen,forexample,theassociategathersfeedbackfrommultiplestakeholdersandusergroups)aidsbuy-inandcreatesbeneficialfeedbackfromthediversityofperspectives,andthishelpsdirectthework。

Exploringtheworkwiththecommunitydoesntmeanhavingtocometoconsensuswiththousandsofpeople。

UsetheOpenDecisionFrameworktosetlimitsandbetransparentaboutwhatthoselimitsaresothatfeedbackandparticipationisorganizedadboundariesareunderstood。

Ifyourealreadyanopenorganization,thenyoushouldremember:

Althoughassociatesinitiateprojectsfromthebottomup,leadershipneedstobeinvolvedtoprovideguidance,inputtothevision,andcirculatecentralizedknowledgeaboutownershipandresponsibilitycreatingasynchronicityofengagementthatistransparenttothecommunity。

Ownershipcreatesresponsibility,andthedefinitionanddegreeoftheseshouldbesomethingbothassociatesandleadersagreeupon,increasingthetransparencyofexpectationsandaccountabilityduringtheproject。

Dontmakethisamatterofoversightorbabysitting,butratheracollaborationwherebothpartiesgiveandtake—associatesinitiate,leadersguide;associatesown,leaderssupport。