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Thriving in a Boundaryless Organization: How People Can Make a Difference

March 3, 2019

These words, plus more, have been used to describe the need to move beyond traditional organizational designs to a new form that is based on enabling people to perform their work and to serve customers more effectively. In particular, it’s about new designs that tear down the walls that inhibit collaboration, and instead foster a spawning ground for new leaders to step forward and to distribute leadership throughout the organization.

How people collaborate, share information, learn from one another, generate new knowledge, and disperse this knowledge throughout their organizations is at the heart of why change is urgently needed.

The word “boundaryless” is used in this leadership post. However, it’s not the word that’s important but rather the change in mindset that must accompany the use of it. Otherwise, we risk alienating people as they become numb to more espoused concepts and promises.

The Boundaryless Organization (initially coined by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric) is in effect an organization without walls. This type of organization is founded upon interdependency and trust. Without these two key characteristics, an organization is blocked from moving from the old organizational model to the new model characterized by the absence of functional walls and turfs.

The individual working in a boundaryless environment must understand the importance of these characteristics. She must trust her co-workers and be willing to support them anytime to back them up consistently when needed.

She’s acutely aware of the need for a high level of interdependency among people, and in turn the importance of mutual accountability. People share when credit is given, and conversely, share when mistakes are made. Scapegoats don’t exist.

Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow;
whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die.

Lao Tzu

The boundaryless person is one who sees the big picture. They see the interrelationships and patterns within the organization, as well as emerging trends in the outside world. They strive continually to build strong and lasting relationships with others.

They’re not interested in protecting his turf. Their focus is on the organization’s best interests, its future and well-being. Moreover, they have an obsession for customer service. Not only do they  respond quickly to customer needs, but they make every effort to anticipate them.

To accomplish this, and to be effective in the boundaryless organization, this individual is nimble and agile. They move effortlessly across the organization, seeking peoples’ inputs and making things happen.

The boundaryless individual has a direct impact on management. In this type of environment, managers assume a new role. They now work across the organization, forgetting about previous fiefdoms. They thrive on inspiring their people to connect with others, to make things happen, and to serve customers to the highest degree possible.

The manager serves as a catalyst to her people. Less reliance is placed on managing things (i.e., doing things right) and more is placed on leading people (i.e., doing the right thing).

A high level of energy prevails in the boundaryless organization. People are charged up with knowing that they’re making a meaningful contribution to the organization. They’re avid learners, continually seeking out new information and acquiring new skills. They realize that the more they learn that the more ignorant they are. Yet, they possess self-confidence, realizing that learning is a never-ending journey.

The boundaryless individual can therefore be viewed as someone who exhibits the following traits:

• Possesses self-confidence,
• Trusts others,
• Sees interdependencies and patterns,
• Works across the organization,
• Builds relationships,
• Takes the initiative to make things happen,
• Is obsessed with customer service,
• Has a zest for learning.

How many of these traits do you possess?

To thrive in a world of change and chaos, we will need to accept
chaos as an essential process by which natural systems,
including organizations, renew and revitalize themselves.

– Kevin McCarey

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