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What formation does your organization use?


As a fan of the Everton football team, I regularly engage in conversations with fellow supporters about the team.  Many of these discussions focus around the formations and tactics the team deploy during a game.  With the World Cup fast approaching in Brazil, no doubt these kind of discussions will be had by fans around the world.


You’ll see fans plotting out their preferred teams in formations not unlike the one above, certain in their belief that their desired formation, coupled with the right players in that formation will be a recipe for success on the pitch.

Except things aren’t really that simple are they?  Whilst a team might nominally speaking adopt this kind of formation, the reality is much more fluid, with players turning up in very different positions depending on the current situation.  If the team is attacking down the right wing for instance the formation will be very different to when the team is defending an opposition attack.

Fans seldom get into that level of granularity of course.  It’s much easier to set out your stall in relatively simple terms and assume that this covers the huge complexities that emerge during a game.  Easy, but wrong nonetheless.

So how does this apply to our organizations?  I suspect that if you sat down a sample of 100 managers and asked them to visualize their organization, then the output might not be too dissimilar to the football formation shown above.  It will probably be a reasonable representation of their particular org chart, with managers and roles assigned accordingly.

Just as with football however, this is likely to be a gross over simplification.  In our social and collaborative world, the way your employees interact and engage with one another is likely to be much more interchangeable depending upon the particular circumstances both they and the organization find themselves in.

Contingency theory proposes that there is no one correct way to design an organization, but that instead, certain structures work more effectively given certain contextual factors.  Maybe the next time you sit down with an org chart in your hand, this is something to bear in mind, especially if you’re tapping into the insights of the crowd in any significant way.

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