Your Organization is a Blob
There is work to be done in the world. That’s why your organization exists. It’s hard to say what precisely that work is (that’s why it’s amorphous). It’s more than you can do on your own so you have created an organization of other really smart people to help you. Oh, and just to throw a wrench into things, because the world is so crazy and chaotic and you have competitors and technology is always changing and new threats and opportunities are emerging and receding — it’s a blob that’s constantly changing in ways you can’t quite predict. Fun stuff!
Your People Are Blobs, Too
You have a group of people you’ve hired who all have different skills and experiences and strengths and personalities and motivations. In fact, they are kind of blobby themselves. Motivations that ebb and flow, interests that change, and skills that grow over time. You have surrounded incredible, talented, and completely unique human beings and they’re going to help you tackle that blob of work to be done. It’s gonna be great!
You Put Your Blobs in Boxes
Because it’s the way things have always been done, you give each of your wonderful people a job description and a title. How else are you supposed to know who is doing what? You kind of realize that maybe each job description and title doesn’t really encapsulate all their skills and abilities but what other option is there? Jerry is awesome at financial stuff but he also has a fascination with how the office environment affects motivation. You wish you could give Jerry a way to exercise that interest but he’s the CFO and that’s not something the CFO should be worrying about. Your weirdly shaped and wonderful people are now in nice and tidy boxes. So tidy. So neat.
You Put Your Boxes in the Blob (And Wonder Why It Doesn’t Work)
Your unique and wonderful people are now in slightly less unique and wonderful “jobs”. The jobs don’t really represent the full spectrum of their capabilities but they are easy to understand and explain, so at least you have that going for you. You take your orderly boxes of jobs and try to arrange them in the way that best covers that amorphous blob of work. You get it figured — kind of — but also have the sense that there seems to be a lot of wasted potential. Some people are squarely within the blob but it seems like some people are barely touching it. That’s weird. It’s also kind of weird that the work keeps changing with new opportunities and threats and the people who are supposed to be responding to those opportunities and threats are pretty much locked into a grid that doesn’t change. If you were to ask one of your formerly unique and wonderful people about how they feel about their tidy and organized block-filled world you might hear some additional frustrations, too.
At least, that’s one way to do it.
The other way is to forego putting your people into neat and tidy job titles and instead allow them to fill multiple roles. Instead of being locked into one role each person has a portfolio of roles that fall within the amorphous blob of work to be done. Their own responsibilities become as varied as they are as individuals. They may spend 30 hours a week on their primary role, another five hours a week on something else, three on another role, and the last two on something completely different. How do you put a job title on that? (Hint: You don’t).
These responsibilities can shift and change over time as the amorphous blob of work to be done shifts and changes. New roles are created and people from within the organization fill those roles (or some new people are hired — it’s not like this approach is designed to specifically not have to hire people). Even though the shape of the work to be done has changed there’s fewer people who find themselves barely touching the organization’s purpose and instead everyone is in it together. Less wasted resources on the organizational side of things and less wasted human dignity, meaning, and effort, too (which is nice).
All it takes is a willingness to embrace the blobbiness.
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