Category Archives: Organizations of the Future

A Proposal for a New Organizational Model

I developed a new organizational model after several years of reflection and study, starting with my MBA work in 2001. My Ph.D. work especially inspired me in developing a new model of public leadership and, later, on my study of the lean startup movement.

The new organization is designed to be agile in every aspect of the work products, leadership, and workforce. The organization is also transparent and designed for maximum information flow. Finally, the mission, vision, and strategy are baked into all that the organization does and drives the organization forward. Here is a diagram of the new organizational model.

Look at the upper box with the five chief officers. A common theme in organizational studies is the danger of silos and fiefdoms. There are also problems with forming a senior leadership team that works together for the good of the entire organization. Therefore, in the new organization, only five chief officers form the senior leadership team.

  • The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – chairs the senior leadership team and keeps the organization aligned with the mission and vision by keeping the strategy engine working effectively.
  • The Chief Alliance Officer (CAO) – combines the traditional functions of the chief human resources officer and chief information officer. Responsible for managing the organizational talent and the organizational APIs platform.
  • The Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) – responsible for managing the knowledge and learning the workflow of the organization. It also oversees the training and development of the organization’s talent.
  • The Chief Brand Officer (CBO) – responsible for overseeing the organization’s brand: internally and externally. It helps the CEO manage the public-facing side of the organization’s mission and vision.
  • The Chief P4 Officer (CPO) – Oversees the portfolios, programs, projects, and processes of the organization’s Business Engine.

In the middle of the model is the “Business Engine.” The Business Engine is where the organization does the work. Instead of a factory floor with fixed production lines, the Business Engine is a maker space with both a physical presence and a virtual presence. Work is performed by a network of project teams loosely organized into portfolios and programs. There are few fixed processes, and these processes will be heavily automated using artificial technology systems using blockchain technologies and deep-learning algorithms. The teams will use agile project management, human-centered design, and adaptive case management to manage the work.

Surrounding the Business Engine are four critical components. The most crucial component is the “Talent” box with the four types of employees. These types are based on the Alliance model of employer-employee agreements. At the bottom is the Organizational APIs Platform, in which the core APIs that run the business infrastructure is available for the talent and teams to build their personalized tools and apps. Surrounding the Business Engine on both sides are open data streams that provide the performance metrics of the organization and allows for easy knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the organization. Embedded in the Business Engine are strategy information radiators (Ambient Strategy). The strategy information radiators provide regularly updated information on how well the organization is fulfilling the mission, vision, and strategic goals.

Pulling the organization forward is the “Strategy Engine.” On top of the Strategy Engine is the “Mission and Vision” alignment compass, which helps align all the organization’s activities toward the mission, vision, and strategic goals. What powers the planning process for the Strategy Engine are the twin concepts of organizational agility and organizational health.

There is a lot of this model borrowed and a lot that is new. I don’t believe there is an organization that follows this model, but many organizations could benefit from adopting parts of the model. I look forward to expanding upon the parts of the new organizational model. I welcome your comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

Gov Trek

Excerpted from Four Scenarios for the Future of the Federal Government: Collected Essays on Transforming Government (2019)

In my online University of Louisville class on communication technology, we discuss the history of communication technology from the days of cave paintings to the latest in virtual and augmented reality. As the coda to the course, we examine four possible future worlds created by the new digital technologies.

The first two worlds come classic dystopian literature. Either the new digital technologies create a 1984-style future of constant surveillance in an authoritarian state, or we amuse ourselves to death in a Brave New World future. Some students remarked that we have seemed to have achieved a Brave New 1984 world where our constant surveillance technologies can also amuse us as the AIs observe us (“Alexa, can cats eat pancakes?”).

The third world is influenced by my first viewing of Terminator. As our digital technologies become smarter, will there be a time when the machines replace us? Maybe not to the extent that the AI superintelligences will attempt to exterminate humanity. However, there are real concerns in the public and private sectors of how many people will lose jobs to the increasing automation of work. The students have a great time discussing a post-work world but, I can sense the underlying fear they have in wondering if their college education will be worth anything in the post-work world.

The fourth world is the optimistic future created by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Star Trek has been a significant influence on my life having grown up in the 70s with constant reruns of the original series. In the Star Trek world, humanity has adapted to a post-scarcity world abundant with amazing technologies such as antigravity, transporters, replicators, and warp drive. Public administration, in the form of the Federation, is an honored and valuable part of life as the Federation’s citizens face numerous threats from the Borg to Romulans to the occasional renegade Starfleet officer.

I think you can see hints of the four worlds in my essays. Whether it is the concern around social technologies and how social technologies have seemed to create the Brave New 1984. Or how federal government workers can thrive in the new workplace automation world. I also see how the federal government along with the state and local governments seem to move toward the GovTrek world.

Woman looking at a glass sphere

So, where do I see the federal, state, and local governments in terms of the original four scenarios? Again, there is a mix but, I feel optimistic in that all governments seem to be moving toward InnoGov in terms of Philip K. Dick’s observation that the future has arrived. It’s just that InnoGov is not equally distributed – yet.

Still there are parts of government stuck in SteamGov such as the short time I worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As the manager of the Human Resources Information Management Branch, I struggled weekly to pull HR reports from a Cobol mainframe that contained the payroll and personnel information for a quarter of the federal civilian workforce.

Then, there is GoogleGov which should be renamed “PublicPrivateGov” as public-private partnership proliferated in the last decade. As more public agencies move to the cloud, companies like Google and Amazon have benefited from hosting the agency functions of federal, state, and local governments. In the state and local government sector, numerous govtech companies have sprung up while the open source revolution has become an essential part of the federal government.

LabGov is alive and well in the state and local governments. Each issue of Governing, Government Technology and related magazines on state and local government showcases the latest state and local technology and policy innovations. There are many lessons that state and local governments can teach the federal government on how to best use digital technologies.

Finally, there are pockets of InnoGov in the federal government. For several years, I chronicled the latest innovations in my DigitalGov Data Briefing column. As I have expressed in the essays, it is more a cultural barrier than a technology barrier holding InnoGov back.

I think that the federal, state, and local governments are on the path to Gov Trek. As any Star Trek fan will tell you, the road to the Federation was difficult. There were many stops and starts, detours and dead ends, and opposition both internal and external to realizing the vision and ideals of the Federation. I hope that my essays chronical some part of the journey for the federal, state, and local governments in this new century.