The Power of Co­or­di­nated Ac­tion:

Short-term Or­ga­ni­za­tions with Long-term Im­pact

Rotman Management Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By Anita Mcga­han

the cul­ture of OVER THE COURSE OF THE 20TH CEN­TURY, man­age­ment re­volved around the chal­lenges of build­ing and ex­pand­ing profit-max­i­miz­ing en­ter­prises, and we took for granted that these in­sti­tu­tions sought per­ma­nence. But not ev­ery or­ga­ni­za­tion sets out to ex­pand its foot­print and grow con­tin­u­ously. Many firms have lim­ited time hori­zons from their in­cep­tion — such as when en­trepreneurs seek ex­its through the li­cens­ing of tech­nol­ogy or selling of prod­uct rights, or when tem­po­rary or­ga­ni­za­tions arise to gov­ern mega-projects, like build­ing an air­port or run­ning the Olympics. These short-lived or­ga­ni­za­tions build ca­pac­ity, as­sem­ble rel­e­vant ca­pa­bil­i­ties, de­ploy them ef­fec­tively, and then shut them­selves down. While their im­pact may be long-lived, the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self sets out to ful­fill a pur­pose and then closes its doors.

In re­cent years, a new breed of tem­po­rary or­ga­ni­za­tion has emerged to tackle some of the world’s most wicked prob­lems. In some cases, we are see­ing es­tab­lished or­ga­ni­za­tions op­er­at­ing in tan­dem with tem­po­rary en­ter­prises that are con­structed specif­i­cally to bridge gaps, en­able ac­tion and ful­fill mis­sions that are fi­nite in na­ture.

In this ar­ti­cle I will de­scribe how for­ward-think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions — large and small, spe­cial­ist and gen­er­al­ist, pri­vate and public — are com­ing to­gether to make head­way against some of our most com­plex so­cial prob­lems.

The com­plex prob­lems of our time in­creas­ingly de­mand cre­ative, adap­tive and flex­i­ble gov­er­nance struc­tures.

The De­mand for Co­or­di­nated Ac­tion

The last quar­ter cen­tury has seen a num­ber of im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments that pro­voke a whole dif­fer­ent way of think­ing about the pur­pose of for­mal gov­er­nance struc­tures. As a re­sult, a new type of or­ga­ni­za­tion is emerg­ing: one that is pur­pose­fully short­lived, but with en­dur­ing — some­times per­ma­nent — im­pact. These or­ga­ni­za­tions are de­signed not to make a profit, but as highly ef­fec­tive tools for ful­fill­ing spe­cific mis­sions, with the full ac­knowl­edge­ment that they will be dis­solved once that mis­sion is achieved.

As we all know, the cur­rent global en­vi­ron­ment is char­ac­ter­ized by an al­most end­less ar­ray of wicked prob­lems: cli­mate change, en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion, drug-re­sis­tant dis­ease, wide­spread in­equal­ity, an epi­demic of men­tal-health dis­or­ders, fail­ing states, the mis­pric­ing of credit, and short­ages of trained

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