Only by truly crossing the border, one changes from an outsider to an insider.
In some occasions one has to move through a notable entrance to set foot in the area off limits for outsiders.
A rite of migration symbolising the passage, emphasises the border. The grand and highly symbolic entrance, although open to some, underpins the closeness of the organisation and the impenetrability of the holy grounds of the inside.
This design features of a great entree should be carefully managed and even then it can be harmful for the organisation.
Building the bridge to connect the outside and the inside is a continuous effort of design, testing, maintenance, change and sometimes even deconstruction.
We should literally think about what it is that moves over the bridge (goods, thoughts, information, money, emotions, people, services, etc) and build a suitable constructions (packaging, mailing, receiving, advertising, hiring, lending, invoicing, etc).
The shape of the bridge as the connective construction of interaction at the border.
Today, organisation have to be open to a multitude of customers, investors, suppliers, distributors, co-makers, co-innovators, outsourcers, ngo’s, legislators, regulatory agencies. And some of these parties penetrate deeply in the internal organisation and sometimes form various externally directed joint ventures, partnerships and other forms of formalized cooperation.
All are influencing and even shaping the border of the organisation and making it increasingly fuzzy what the exact border is.
And while this haziness is a reality, the need for a clear identity increases at the same time. It is important to stand out vis-a-vis competitors in the plethora of communication. It requires a clear vision and great design skills to develop open and at the same time pronounced borderlines.
I call this the contour challenge of the contemporary organisation.
The scale at which you look at a border influences the understanding and judgement of that border.
What looks as a closed border might proof much more friendly and permeable from a position more close.
What looks like in inviting area of interaction from a distance might proof to be a pretty closed, one way street when actually trying to engage with the organisation as an outsider.
So the big picture and the details of the border matter in the design of an organisation.
The value that an organisation creates, is often part of a much larger and complex continuum of value configurations.
The word configuration expresses the fact an organisation is part of more than just a single value chain. The configuration encapsulates the interference, the reinforcement, the interdependency and sometimes the contradiction of multiple activities as executed by a myriad of actors and entities.
We could regard organisation as a collection of functions in that configuration, that is somehow specifically managed as a unity. By doing so part of the complexity is boxed. And by that the organisation is different from other parts of the configuration and in that difference lies the existence of the border. The border delineated the special part from the rest.
At the same time implies the fact that the organisation is part of something bigger, a kind of interaction (exchange of value).
The border is thus both the separation and the connection. The perspective of the organisation as part of a configuration makes that even clearer.
The lifespan of most organisation is shorter than the lifespan of the individuals that make part of it. Compare the fortune500 list of 2012 with that 20 years earlier and the temporariness of organisation becomes evident. Remenber Enron, Digital Equipment, Generale Bank, Saab?
And although some companies live for quite a long period, most of the traces they leave vanish in thin air like the contrails of an airplane (the chemical and nuclear contamination and the depletion of natural resources some leave, are the sad exceptions).
This temporariness of its imprints and of the organizations themselves and their borders, provides some lightness to this blog.
Exploring, drawing and discussing the border of an organisation, started with the vague idea that there is something as a border. Somethings that can be described as the defining circumference of an organisation.
One of the intriguing insights so far is that organisations have a multi-border reality. Describing the organisation as a fixed entity with one defining border, only partly grabs the reality of that organisation and how its encounters with the environment are shaped.
At the same time this insight makes the quest even more interesting and brings me and hopefully you, the reader and watcher, further in the understanding of the complex beasts that organisation are.