In HSD we consider the alignment of what we believe with how we work together and the ways we support that work. This alignment is useful whether we need to explore new ways of working together or when we want to examine what currently exists. In building a home or office space, the purpose a room will serve (its function) sets the parameters for the structures that create that space. Form (structure) follows function (purpose). There should be a similar alignment in organizations. Operational and functional structures and constructs that shape the work should align with what we believe and how we live out those beliefs.
Complex systems require organizational structures that allow us to operate in adaptive and responsive ways, according to the work we have to do and according to what we believe about the work we have to do. So we take the “Form follows function” saying to the next level: “Form follows function, which flows from what we believe to be important.” The architectural model invites us to dialogue about the following questions:
- What do we believe about our work? Beliefs can be tricky to talk about. Using this model does not call for extended word-smithing about flowery belief statements: just get clear about the basic beliefs or assumptions we carry about our work. What do we believe or value about customer service? What do we know from research about what constitutes effective practice? What do we consider to be important about how we treat people and get our work done?
- How do we need to act to live out our beliefs? Belief statements are only of value if they lead to action. So it’s important to move from the discussion of what we believe about our work to a discussion of what that means about how we function together to live out those beliefs. This is one reason HSD Associates work with groups to identify their simple rules. Simple Rules are the brief, generalizable action statements that inform interactions and decision making to build coherent patterns across the whole.
- What organizational structures, constructs, and connections will allow us to act in those ways? A functioning system is made up of different types of structures that work interdependently to support us as we do our work. When thinking about structures in a system, think about 1) the content of the work we do; 2) the ways we share resources and information; 3) how and by whom decisions get made; and 4) who is accountable for what and how we hold each other accountable.
Step into the Architectural Model; use it to examine the structures in your system. What alignment(s) do you find? Where might you shift your current structures or establish new ones that help you act in ways that let you live out what you believe about the work you have committed to do.