Publications One set of organization principles does no longer suffice: multimodality

One set of organization principles does no longer suffice: multimodality

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IT separated from business activities, merely supporting, captured in one cost-focused culture: an old-fashioned conception, especially when considering the digital organizations of today in which IT plays an important role in products and services for the end user. Whilst designing such a digital organization it is of utmost importance to pay close attention to the right design principles. Uniformly applying one set of organization principles for the entire organization will no longer suffice: multiple leadership styles and cultures are required for a properly functioning organization. Anderson MacGyver describes this concept using the term ‘multimodality’.

Fit with business activity

The key principle of multimodality is that a suitable digital organization design should be shaped by the characteristics of the business activities on which a digital organization part focuses, by means of applying the Competing Value Framework by Cameron and Quinn (2006).

Types of organization cultures and their characteristics

Anderson MacGyver’s multimodal model distinguishes four modalities of which the digital organization can consist:

  • entrepreneurial, short-cycle innovation teams (adhocracy) focused on unique business activities that create external business value
  • stability and cost managing teams (hierarchy) focused on commodity business activities, which are necessary, but not distinctive for the organization
  • integration teams managing digital data exchange, cohesion, alignment, and reciprocal fit (clan), focused on business activities that are specific and connecting for the organization and her activities
  • teams that intelligently adopt market solutions (market) and are capable of quickly utilizing these for generic, but competitive business activities that create business value for the customer

The various modalities

The competences among these types of teams vary: innovation teams (purple) require significantly different competences than integration teams (orange) do. Market teams (blue) focus on creating external value, whereas hierarchy teams (green) are razor-sharp when it comes to costs and stability of common functionalities and services.

A successful digital organization thus requires a multimodal organization design: a carefully considered balance of the different modalities and several leadership styles, taking into account the desired differences in culture.

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Edwin Wieringa
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