Within each organisation there are a number of different roles, and one could imagine them as somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle, where the unique individual shapes represents the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for each of these roles. They interlink with other pieces via their direct reporting and interactions.
Each organisation is a unique jigsaw in size, shape and distinctive pieces. So when looking to replace or add a piece (employee), we often look for someone who is the best fit to take up the vacant space. The challenge lays in the fact that an exact match is near impossible to find, the skills may be right, but the knowledge based on organisational culture and behaviour will always be unique, and therefor different in shape.
The aim is to find a jigsaw piece as similar to the one needed and then enable it to mould into the required shape. A component of knowledge management comes into play here, enabling the employee to gain information and training, in the most effective manner that will allow them to fit in as snuggly as possible into their new role.
Some organisations prefer to move their internal pieces around, especially with promotions; this is often due to the employee’s understanding of organisational behaviour that is often considered the most important knowledge required.
So far we have been describing a static organisational jigsaw, but we don’t function in a static environment. For example, in some cases an external piece is brought in as an intentional new shape, its purpose is not to mould snuggly into an existing shape, but rather force other pieces around for the purpose of aligning with a new direction of an organisational decision.
A component of change management is incorporated under these conditions, as the introduction of this new shape will push, pull and impact on each piece of the organisational jigsaw. Each change should be supported with knowledge management to enable employees to adapt to new directions.
Every organisation has external influences as well from the industry which they belong, and just like the unique internal pieces, an organisation as a whole is a piece of an industry jigsaw, with interlacing components that may be affected by change with the introduction of a new competitor, technology or a number of other factors. This can greatly impact the shape of an organisation. It could force expansion, contraction or direction, as it needs to adapt to a dynamic industry. As the organisational shape gets pushed and pulled from the outside, it directly impacts the internal components and pieces.
Once again the introduction of change and knowledge management is required to ensure all pieces are informed and given the most effective method of support to adapt to the dynamic conditions. The concept around static industries and organisations are no longer something we can afford to entertain. It’s an exceptionally dynamic world, and how we manage our organisation to adapt will be crucial in our success or failure.
"Effective Change and Knowledge management will be critical for organisational survival"
But success will only be possible if we have exceptionally adaptable pieces.
If we consider an organisational jigsaw under such dynamic conditions, we cannot think of the pieces as the traditional solid structure we have come to know a jigsaw as. Each piece must be made of something very different. You may be thinking of something adaptable, like clay or play-dough, where it can be moulded and shaped as needed, and this would certainly be an improvement compared to the solid pieces. But clay and play-dough do not adapt by themselves.
In organisational terms this means that although an employee is adaptable, they wait for instructions and are reactive after the fact. They need to be informed and supported in altering shape. This can also be considered as learning and adapting to what is already known. Although there is benefit in this, the employee must always be led every time a change takes place.
In a competitive perspective this does not lead the industry, and this does not offer anything new or innovative either. Something very different is needed, something that adapts and changes autonomously in an informed manner, a Smart-Shape.
The Smart-Shape employee is self-motivated and has an understanding of the importance of staying in touch with information, training and industry directions. They are not reactive after the fact; they are often leaders in recognising the need to adapt to information around their industry, and can be innovators and champions of productive change.
The Smart-Shape employee develops and uses tacit knowledge that is perhaps the most valuable form of knowledge in this current changing environment. This tacit knowledge is the difference between a follower/leader, old/new, and survival/extinction within an organisation.
But without organisational support, a Smart-Shape employee is restricted to the constraints of existing procedures and policies.
The Smart-Shape organisation utilises all forms of information and technology, but more importantly values its employees who know how to interpret the information and use the technologies.
The Smart-Shape organisation contains many smart-shape employees; its culture fosters transformational leadership and encourages collaboration and communication. Its organisational culture and behaviour links to the industry and demographic to which it serves, and is reactive and predictive to trends and needs, and does not remain in a fixed position as it’s in a constant dynamic state.
Few organisations could be considered a Smart-Shape organisation today, but for those that are, we dream of being part of them, because we wouldn’t be working "for" them, we would be working with them.