From Concrete to Conceptual

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

This is Part 5 of 5 in a series. This post is in response to a question by Herb Koplowitz, contributing editor to Global Organization Design Society. It is based on a discussion about Collins’ organizational model.

I didn’t read Collins’ levels as layers, but as personality fit to being a good manager. (He actually describes behaviors and then ascribes them to the manager as though ones manager has nothing to do with ones behavior.) Please explain how you see Collins’ levels as relating to Jaques’ strata. What is Stratum I about being a capable individual, what is Stratum II about being a contributing team member?

Last Friday, we looked at Collins’ Level 4. Today, Level 5.

Level 5 – Collins – Level V Leadership. Decisions inside Stratum V (Requisite Organization) roles consider the organization as a whole in the context of its market. The direct output of this role is the articulation of a clear and compelling vision relevant to the market. There is a shift in thinking from tangible, concrete elements to the world of conceptual ideas.

  • What is the market need?
  • Is the market big enough?
  • What is the product or service that meets that market need?
  • Does the market value the product or service higher than its cost to produce?
  • What is the appropriate organizational structure (what are the Levels of Work) necessary to sustain profitable production?

Understanding that markets always change, these decisions are fluid and adaptive. Stratum V roles require declarative processing at a conceptual level, defining and articulating a clear and compelling vision relevant to the market. Longest Time Span tasks range from 5-10 years.

The understatement of Collins book Good to Great is the short shrift he gives to the infrastructure of Levels I-IV. The most capable CEO (S-V) will falter and fail, if thrust into an organization without the proper infrastructure at Strata I-IV.

What is the most defining characteristic of a successful CEO? It is not personality or charisma. It is that person who has built functional teams at each Level of Work. Where there is weakness at any Level of Work, the organization will cave to that level and remain stuck until they have restored the roles with the necessary capability.

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