It seems we like lines.
In organisations we draw them everywhere. This business, that division, this function, that department, this team, that group, my role, your role, this project, that programme.
Each time we draw a line it seems to both instill a sense of identity and belonging, whilst at the same time creating a barrier, an ‘us and them’.
The line tells me my place, I’m somehow safe, bounded by this imaginary line. I belong here. The interface between the parts, across the lines, generating a need to manage that boundary. We create roles to bridge the relationships, measures to show the performance of the parts, brands to show the difference… reasons to apportion and explain the blame.
But we like lines.
If the lines are removed, we seem uncertain about how to behave. Who is responsible? Who is accountable? Where are the hand-offs? Who am I? Who are you? How does it all fit together?
It’s like we become a jigsaw where the pieces haven’t been cut out, so we can’t see how they interconnect.
Lines, it seems, are everywhere though. Not just in large organisations.
I was speaking with someone the other day about their business. They work alone, as an associate delivering great creative stuff. They are pitching for a bit of work under their own brand and, in our conversation, seemed somehow uncertain – because of a line they had created for themselves. My business. Someone else’s business.
We create lines in families too. Blue household jobs and pink household jobs. His room, her room. My car, your car. My brother’s role, my sister’s role.
Useful or a constraint?