Enterprise Mega-Shifts

The enterprise is undergoing massive, seismic shifts. The last enterprise mega-shifts were in the late 1980s and 1990s. Prior to the 1980s, for most of the 20th Century, businesses were organized functionally. Discrete corporate departments led manufacturing, sales, marketing, human resources and so forth. Well-managed businesses enjoyed equilibrium and steady growth.

Colabria Value Chain Enterprise Value Chain Circa 1990

In the late 1980s and for most of the 1990s the enterprise undertook the wrenching but necessary shift from function to process. Remember value chains and cross-functional teams? Remember the headlong flight to integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) software packages in the 1990s?

This was a very difficult period for most organizations. It was remarkably difficult to let-go and un-learn the functional mindset. Highly respected industry stalwarts like IBM, Apple and GM almost went out-of-business. Middle management was eviscerated. The enterprise wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on dubious and failed ERP implementations. Only with grit and determination did the strongest organizations survive…  

 Well, that’s the good news. Today business is facing no fewer than five enormous enterprise mega-shifts. This time around, they are all happening at once. They will make the 1990s feel nostalgic and inviting. Colabria Action Research has identified these five mega-shifts.

Bureaucracies to Boundaries – Innovation, productivity and prosperity inhabit the far-flung organizational boundaries and just beyond. Moldering central bureaucracies are being dismantled. 

Processes to Networks – Routine process engineering and ordered-systems mastery is being subsumed by the network mindset. Complex systems thinking and ecosystem logic carries the day.

Governance to Relevance – Corporate governance is being replaced by distributed relevance. Perpetually acting on behalf of customers in the situated present is creating the next great episode of enterprise achievement and business growth.

Management to Leadership – Command and control is fast becoming cultivate, collaborate and coordinate. Constitutions and narratives are supplanting metrics and consequences for high enterprise achievement.

Transactions to Interactions – Work that was once systematic and routine is now social, interactive and improvisational. Success requires judgment and freedom to act with a heavy reliance on complex interactions with others.

Taken alone any one of these mega-shifts makes the shift from function to process seem relatively quaint and easy. Taken together, simultaneously, the requirements for enterprise adaptation, organizational exaptation and knowledge leadership are staggering. Fortunately, that’s where humans excel… if they are allowed. 


In San Francisco, your Colabria Action Research Networks will colonize these themes. Please accept your Early Bird Invitation: KM2014.

Your Colabria Cluster will equip you with the methods, techniques, tools, technologies and Next Practices to master the next great chapter of enterprise evolution with confidence.  

Colabria Action Research

Colabria EET

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