Organize for complexity: a review

A month ago I received a very nice and pleasant gift from Niels Pflaeging: Organize for Complexity, his very last book. I had to wait a bit to read it because I truly try to walk my lean talk, so I finished the book I was reading first and then I started this one out.

The subject of the book was – and still is – very attractive to me. The book is all about answering the question

How can I overcome my current company’s performance bottlenecks, making it grow and prosper without incurring in a bureaucracy nightmare?

Niels’ point of view is sharply articulated in 7 chapters, going from introducing the difference existing between complex vs. complicated systems up to a clear leadership model through an analysis of companies as dynamic-robust networks. It is a book meant to non-address the inherent complexity lying in companies, which are already networked. [They are] just not allowed to operate as one.

The book is very lightweight, more or less a hundred pages written in a very sparse way. It’s concise, dry, shrunk to the bare minimum. It states a lot and explains so little, I loved the style. If you want to know more about systems, complexity thinking, network science, well… you got plenty of books to read! [I promise to write a list in a post within July 2014!]. Don’t expect this book to be exhausting. Expect it to be thought-provoking.

This is a book I will use for two main reasons during my coaching activity:

  1. I will suggest it to everyone willing to learn a little bit about any of the following:
    • What’s the future of knowledge work.
    • What’s the approach I will face organisational challenges with.
    • What’s my job, tout court 🙂
  2. As a brief memo, a book of hours to read and re-read and re-read every time I have to re-align myself and my actions with my values, which I share 100% with the author.

My favourite quotes from the book

Some “general purpose” advise,

Profit maximisation and shareholder value theories are mechanistic and, ultimately, anti-social dogmas. Success is not a zero-sum game. And neither is it just “win-win”.

A memo for my daily coaching activity,

Resistance to change is as natural as sweating is in professional sports.

A very nice reminder,

One cannot, at the same time, lead and exercise hierarchical power. In complexity, leadership as a social process, as a system’s capability, gains prominence.

A deep guts feeling turned into words,

If you let formal structure interfere negatively with value creation, you are not doing your job.

Read this book, you are not going to regret.