From the hierarchy to the network. Why digitization needs new structures.

Digitization is not something that “simply passes by.” What many may have thought (or hoped?) at the onset has been all too clearly refuted. Digitization is here to stay, it’s advancing – and it’s changing organizations and their business models from the ground up.

Digitization on the agenda!

Nearly all companies have internalized this: they’ve put “digitization” on their agendas, formed project groups or “innovation vehicles,” and perhaps even hired a “Digital Transformation Officer.”

What is often overlooked here is an honest (and holistic) view of organizational structures. While business models and processes are to be digitized (sometimes only on the surface, and sometimes very deeply and holistically), it is often completely overlooked that new ways require new working models and structures.

Contradiction between structure and vision

While we happily steer into the digital age with our business models, our work models often remain in the industrial age: hierarchical structures, presence culture and silo thinking everywhere you look. Structures working according to the principles of yesteryear, in which no real and sustainable innovation can arise, are often completely missed. This happens even in super hip, truly digital companies that should know better.

What to do? Change that goes deeper

Free thinking needs free space. Freedom. These do not arise in rigid structures, in fixed full-time positions, which cannot (never!) be shaken up, nor in tasks pre-defined down to the finest detail, which one holds onto for years (or decades).

What was good in the industrial age (clear structures and processes, an extremely well-planned division of labor and specialization, a clear hierarchy and reliable but rigid working hours) can only fail in the age of digitization. New framework conditions and environmental requirements call for new structures and fundamental cultural changes in companies. Networked thinking requires networked structures. Flexible actions require flexible work (time) models.

It won’t happen on its own, but it’s vital

It is beyond question that the transformation from a hierarchy to a network structure is not simply a matter of course, and is much more difficult for larger organizations than for small ones. However, that this is necessary to keep pace in the digital age is also no longer being overlooked.

The best for last…

The good news is that most of the experts you need for digital transformation are already there. They are located at their company, probably comfortably nestled in their silos. They are the company’s own employees. One just has to offer them the space to network with each other cleverly: to share knowledge; support and inspire each other; exchange experiences in meaningful ways; and independently initiate flexible work and collaboration forms. Even for the latter – that much is clear – in a network organization, no one has to organize using top-down methods alone anymore.




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