Is your organisation a Sudoku puzzle or an Origami model?

Is your organisation a Sudoku puzzle or an Origami model?

Business article by Sandeep Sesodia, MGPS Commercial 

"The idea for this article came from conversations with business owners, business leaders and senior executives with whom I was holding conversations as they continue to evaluate their business models, strategies, and organisational structures in the current economic climate. My initial question was: What is the shape of your business and what shape is your business in?

I do not profess to have the answer to the questions raised in the article, but this is an important discussion point in the business support that I have been providing to business owners. So, the article is a conversation starter and I hope that it provides some food for thought."

Contact Sandeep here

Is your organisation a Sudoku puzzle or an Origami model?

Over the last year I have discussed at length the importance of strategic business financial planning, contingency and continuity planning, impact analysis and risk assessment.

mpgs LOGO 2017 02 003During the COVID 19 pandemic we have all become familiar with words and phrases such as furlough, resilience, survival, pivoting, change management, organisational culture, sustainability, remote working, the new normal and so on. And we are only too aware of the job retention schemes and the various government grants.

2020 has been a watershed for many organisations. But how have businesses and organisations responded given the ongoing events?

  • How are business owners and executives running their organisations?
  • Have their aims, objectives and strategy changed?
  • How deep has the impact been on supply chains?
  • Have organisations adapted?
  • What is the operating model of larger organisations?
  • Is flexibility part and parcel of the culture of organisations?

Or have businesses shown a reluctance to change their style and modus operandi? Leading on from this, if a business has changed, has this been the right decision and what has been learnt? If change has not been beneficial, business owners need to consider to what extent the business should go back to previous business models or retain the change.

In other words, circumstances dictated such a rapid change and possibly a kneejerk reaction, that it is inevitable some organisations will have learnt that change was not appropriate. The benefit is that those organisations now have the choice to select which changes should be retained and which changes were unnecessary. Of course, some organisations may need to carry out a radical rethink.

Nevertheless, businesses and organisations have an opportunity to review what they can do differently. To get the ball rolling, business owners and executives should look at the business operating model and the organisational structure of their company.

Traditionally, organisational structures have been described as either functional, matrix, divisional or flat and define many aspects of an organisation (hierarchy, rules, jobs, roles, responsibilities, tasks, coordination of activities) with the aim being of being able to achieve an organisation’s goals. These structures are then adapted to suit an organisation’s needs.

However, with the increase in the digital marketplace, decentralised, team-based organisational structures are replacing the old models.

With this in mind, let us consider these operating models and organisational structures in a different way: does your business resemble a Sudoku puzzle or an Origami model? In other words, is the business being run as a mathematical equation or as an enterprise?

Let me explain - the known and perceived characteristics of a Sudoku puzzle and an Origami model are as follows:

Sudoku puzzle: Linear, straight lines, box to box; disciplined, structured, ordered; hint of inflexibility; a regimented style, formula driven.

Origami model: Creative (design), imaginative, free flowing; inspirational; visual; celebrating simplicity and demonstrating flair.

Are larger, complex organisations accurately represented by a Sudoku puzzle – a series of grids, columns, rows, and boxes? Do these features represent the different departments and divisions of such organisations? What happens in these boxes, rows, columns, and grids? Are there any interactions? How does information flow and how does communication take place?

sudokuThe Sudoku puzzle can only be completed successfully by following the rules…..if you veer off course then the puzzle cannot be completed! So, with the Sudoku puzzle there is only one “right” solution – there is only one path to the outcome. This will be important for certain types of organisations (particularly where there are important regulatory frameworks) but not for all.

Do business owners operate their businesses on the same basis - a tightly run ship? Is this a formula for success? Is the Borg Cube in Start Trek a giant Sudoku puzzle that has evolved (assimilated) to become a cube (or a business that has grown and evolved to become a multinational organisation) with the irresistible tag line “resistance is futile”?!

When you look at Origami models what is the roadmap being laid out? The detail is in the folds of the Origami models - the more folds you have the more complex the structure (of an organisation). The folds can go into different directions, create different shapes, change direction, and adapt. However, the relationship or link between each fold needs to be understood and whether the folds naturally lead to one another. Without the right relationships in the fold, you could end up with a crumpled piece of paper!

Origami also requires a clear vision of the outcome that you are trying to achieve. Maybe it’s a swan, or a flower or another image, but you need to know that each fold is helping to achieve the final outcome and be clear on what that is at the beginning. There may be multiple ways to get there but you need to know where you are heading.

origamiIt is written that traditionally, Origami models are a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. Is this the kind of inspiration that businesses currently need? Both the Sudoku puzzle and the Origami models have been applied to intellectual and logical thinking, problem solving, organisational structures, design, manufacture (NASA), engineering, medicine (modelling DNA samples), robotics, factory automation and architecture (fitting big things into small spaces) to name but a few.

Both the Sudoku puzzle and the Origami model have a place within an organisation – a Sudoku puzzle could be folded into an Origami model... Irrespective of the shape, an organisational structure is a pattern or network of relationships. The caveat is that it is critical to understand how the information flows in an organisation. A business must be transparent and there should be clarity in the business operations. This way the business will engender trust, build relationships and partnerships and gain customers. An organisation must not give an aura of mystery or be perceived as an enigma.

Business owners can help themselves by reflecting on their own business’s organisational structure and processes. They need to re-evaluate the structure and analyse the impact on the finances, the resources, on people, on the supply chain and on customers. This review will enable them to re- Sandeep Sesodia January 2021 imagine their business; assess the viability and credibility of the business; how robust it is and what the desired outcome is. Business owners must also assess the impression that people have of the business, its reputation, and the legacy that is being created.

Thereafter, the business owners can identify and determine if and how their organisations align with the Sudoku puzzle, the Origami model or perhaps both. This will not only define the shape their business is in, but also the shape of their business."

Sandeep Sesodia
January 2021

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