As far back as we look into history, organizations have been structured hierarchically, like a pyramid. Pharaohs had their empires organized this way, and even our ancestors, the primates, are organized like this. Our families have been organized like this for ages too. The father is the head of the household and the family abides his decisions. He is the CEO, while the mother is the COO, and the kids are the foot soldiers.

In traditional society it goes further: The CEO is the grandfather, the grandmother is the COO, the children are middle managers, and the grandchildren should be seen but not be heard.

This hierarchical system has worked well, more or less, for thousands of years. It fit the needs of the nomadic lifestyle, and, later, of agricultural society. The top of the pyramid knew what to do and directed the rest of the hierarchy to execute his decisions. It worked for industrial society too. The production line required an efficiency of operations that could be best achieved through a hierarchy based on command and control.

However, it does not work well in the world we live in now: the knowledge society, the information society.

In this new world the top of the pyramid does not know better or more than the bottom of the pyramid. The top has to rely on information coming from below to make the right decisions, and s/he needs the cooperation of the bottom to efficiently implement those decisions. Think high-tech companies. Think pharmaceutical companies. Think software development companies; R&D companies.

These changes apply not only to industry. We are in the midst of a major disruptive change in our civilization. Families are in turmoil and the traditional hierarchy is crumbling. The man is no longer accepted as the one and only decision maker. Not only are women requesting a share of the authority and power, so are children. From a young age they want to be heard and taken into account. Some of them actually run the show.

The hierarchy model is not working well. What to do?

What is emerging in published books and training programs is a plan to abolish the hierarchy and replace it with a network system. Away with titles. Away with subordination. No more bosses and workers. All are equal. Holacracy. Teamwork. Away with structures, titles, and procedures that smell of hierarchy, control, and suffocation of the creative spirit.

How well does it work? I suggest that it is a passing fad.

Swinging 180 degrees to the other side of the street, so to say, has its own deficiencies. The new fad is not a response to the problem of hierarchical organizations; it is a reaction to the problems created by hierarchical organizations.

Organizations that tried Holacracy experienced major difficulties. Workers rebelled.

Opening the channels from below destroyed an organization’s accountability and its capability to efficiently implement decisions for which a hierarchy of command and control was necessary. (See my own criticism of industrial democracy in my writings, starting with Industrial Democracy Yugoslav Style, Adizes Institute Publications.)

Let me be clear: For decision making we need open channels. We need democracy. But when democracy is applied to implementation of the decisions made, democracy can end in anarchy. For implementation we need command and control. We need hierarchy.

In the past there was only organizational hierarchy. Now we are attempting only organizational democracy. Both approaches, by themselves, do not work well.

We need both approaches working in unison: bottom-up information flow for decision making, and top-down power structure for decision implementation. That is what the Adizes Methodology is all about: how to create such a system that is democratic and dictatorial in the right sequence.

Creating such a system takes more than the right attitude and intention. It requires building a system based on cooperation and collaboration, for which we need a culture of mutual trust and respect.

To create a culture of Mutual Trust and Respect that is sustainable requires common vision and values; It requires the right organizational structure that recognizes and fosters diversity; It requires disciplined interaction in meetings, and people who have their egos under control. It is not an easy task.

It is an uphill battle to change a hierarchical culture into one that fosters this dichotomy of democracy and dictatorship. It takes one to three years for an organization to develop this type of culture. Once developed, it must be continuously fostered and supported, because the dichotomy creates tension; one of the two forces, democracy or dictatorship, eventually takes over and the balanced integration of the two suffers.

Why is this methodology called Symbergetic? Symbergetic is a new word I have coined combining the concepts of synergy and symbiosis.

When we have diversity interacting with mutual respect (i.e., valuing each other’s diversified contribution) we get synergy: The totality is bigger then the sum of the components. How? The interaction creates additional values because not in spite of diversity; everyone brings a different point of view thus enriching the totality..

When there is symbiosis, the parts benefit from the interaction.

The Adizes Methodology is to create a Symbergy: Capitalize on diversity, cross-pollination, so that, through interaction based on mutual respect, additional value is created that could not have been created otherwise. (In a company this is manifested in achieving a higher level of profitability and growth.) This additional value is shared—there is gain sharing, there is symbiosis. It is not a system in which the top of pyramid gets the benefits that the bottom of the pyramid contributed significantly to produce. The value created is shared. Those who contributed in creating the value benefit from the additional value created. That develops mutual trust. Mutual trust fosters mutual respect: People have a reason to cooperate. Collaboration fosters cooperation and cooperation gives a reason for that collaboration.

Although the Adizes Symbergetic Methodology is the answer to the needs of modern organizations, it is not as easy to implement as a typical consulting or training program. The Adizes Symbergetic Methodology takes strong commitment to making the necessary cultural changes: to change how meetings are run; to change how the organization is structured; to change the reward system; and more. But the results prove that it is well worth it. (See Frisa documentary on You Tube)

Just thinking,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes