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🌿 The Spore

Welcome to The Spore, from Organizational Mycology

Brought to you by the team at Organizational Mycology

The Oblique Thinking Hour (OTH) is back! Read on below for our two-part OTH coming up in May.

👀 Something that caught our eyes

We’ve been watching with interest as a well-known multinational company is planning to get rid of middle managers and dispense with 99% of their 1,362 page corporate manual. They’re aiming to transition away from traditional management layers toward 5,000-6,000 "self-directed teams" that work together for 90-days on projects. We’re watching with keen curiosity as a traditionally hierarchical organization tries to pivot quickly and directly to a non-hierarchical model. We are skeptically optimistic: We love to see new models of working, but we’ve also seen similar efforts fail and ironically place more administrative burden on frontline workers. 

As systems get more complex, it is increasingly clear that traditional management structures are no longer to be taken for granted as a reality of organizational life. There are many other ways of organizing work, with ”self-directed” teams and algorithmic management being two prominent examples. Adam Grant had a podcast a few years back about a company with no managers in the food processing industry.

There is a general trend toward this type of management reduction, particularly in the tech industry, so there will likely be plenty more examples to learn from. What makes these types of cost-saving initiatives succeed or fail? Who benefits, and who takes the brunt of the unintended consequences? These are the questions we’ll be thinking about as the trend continues.

We see an increasing number of organizations operating very effectively with lightweight administrative layers. What are you seeing in your neck of the woods?

🤔 Oblique Thinking Hour

On May 14th and 21st, we’ll be running a two-part Oblique Thinking Hour(s) to explore the method of “Group Concept Mapping.” The technique involves a single prompt which everyone in the group will respond to on a very general topic that everyone is likely to be familiar with. We’ll then go through the process of “clustering” the responses, both together “as humans” and then on the second day using a natural language processing tool.

We are most interested in having a discussion about the similarities and differences between participant clustering and software tool clustering. While this is a familiar technique to many facilitators, we’re trying to bring the technique to multiple teams / organizations and synthesize similarities and differences across response groups. We’re also interested in how large groups of respondents and their responses can be analyzed at scale.

In week two, we will look at week one's responses alongside responses to our prompting question from social media channels and open science / collaborative communities in our networks.

We’re trialing this group facilitation technique to help us explore ideas with groups of people interested in particular topics and seeing where ideas overlap and diverge. We see this as potentially useful in companies, nonprofits and community organizations in a number of ways: as a knowledge-sharing exercise, as a future-forward planning process, or as a way of generating new ideas. Come join us and share your wisdom, and help us play and craft together.

⚡️Brief Updates

We recently completed an interview-based analysis of DEI-related issues in the Astropy open source software community. Our interviews asked community members about their perceptions of the state of DEI within the project and in overlapping fields (e.g., astronomy and open source software) as well as their ideas for how to create a more inclusive, welcoming environment. The report highlights Astropy’s potential role as a catalyst for change not only within the project, but also in the scientific disciplines and communities in its ecosystem. You can read the Astropy DEI report here, and if you missed it, the Astropy community engagement report is here

Feel free to reach out with any feedback!

Contact us at [email protected]