We are at a point in organizational architectural development where we must begin with a clean slate, a fresh new sheet of paper, and start the process of evolving new organizational patterns. These new patterns should be based on adaptive systems capable of sustaining all people within organizations through times of high ambiguity and change. Guided autonomy should replace command and control. A culture of pride should be blended with a culture of personal responsibility and shared performance. Structure should evolve into a flow of networks with people at its center. This approach is not a fad, because it meets the test of reality.

The short- and long-term future is unknowable, unpredictable and undetermined. However, many leaders and their organizations remain mesmerized by the promise of control and certainty. This continued belief has taught us to do very little until the organization is absolutely certain it knows what will happen in detail, or it is about to collapse. When action finally is taken, the actions are taken as if the organization truly can see the outcome.

The practice of what often is called strategic planning has been predicated on the collection and analysis of data about past conditions to produce what is felt to be a detailed picture of the future. Organizations then plan actions, which they believe are certain to lead them to a successful future. This all seems very logical; however, today’s landscape is no longer logical. The only thing certain about a 5-year strategic plan is that change will occur quickly, and the plan will be dramatically wrong or obsolete within 1 or 2 years. This is not to advocate the removal of all planning, tactical or strategic. That would be foolish. The point is, whatever plans are made should be viewed as movable, flexible and dynamic enough to evolve and respond to an ever-changing business landscape. In other words, a plan for continually changing the plan should be put in place.

Contrary to the popular wisdom of strategic planning, McGill University professor Henry Mintzberg suggests what he calls “strategic thinking.” Quoting from The Boundaryless Organization, “In Mintzberg’s view, strategic thinking is what successful companies use to track changing social and economic trends, to access their implications, to experiment with new ways of doing business, and to build on empirical experience.” He goes on to say, “It is a continuous process, inculcated into the fabric of the organization, rather than a one-time planning exercise.”

Today’s complex events and chaotic developments are confronting most organizations with a compelling mandate for change of unprecedented proportions. The changes being required go far beyond tweaks, adjustments and modifications. There is a strong need to focus on breakthroughs rather than incremental change. The piecemeal augmentation of new data and facts will not sustain organizations in today’s turbulent world.

We are moving out of a world of incremental alterations. Fluffing a few pillows and rearranging desk chairs on the Titanic simply will not do. We are quickly moving into a world of discontinuous transformational change. I think it is safe to say that technology and complexity are inseparable components of this transformational change. Organizations must get comfortable in dealing with continual interruptions in their plan, and transform themselves quickly on a continuous basis.

The change goes beyond simply rethinking how work gets done. As individuals and organizations, we must learn to think at the same time we are thinking. The message is becoming clear. Virtually all organizations and teams of people within organizations must come to grips with the continuing explosion of information, technology, globalization, fierce competition, economic and social upheaval, and the mixing of a remarkably diverse culture and workforce. The vast reservoirs of information, new technology and change are coming at us in such large amounts and at such high speeds, that we often can feel like we are drinking from a fire hose.

Organizations and their leadership must be prepared to throw away their insecurities and embrace new unconventional thinking. They must do this to deal more effectively with situations, which are complex, ever-changing and, for the most part, uncontrollable. Mark McCormack states it very nicely in his book, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, when he says, “Have you noticed that the best-run companies all seem to be managed unconventionally?” He goes on to state, “Their success is attributed to breaking the rules, not following them; encouraging employee, departmental and divisional independence, not stifling it; bursting through the conventional wisdom, not perpetuating it.” This is definitely a very uncomfortable thought for most people to deal with. It is contrary to what we have been taught to believe about leading organizations.

When the steps are taken to embrace and apply a new frame of reference to organizational dynamics, it requires a quantum leap not only in acceptance, but also in action. In tapping the potential of each stakeholder and in the releasing of the creative power of those stakeholders, the organization can benefit from the whole, truly crafting a culture of innovation. This “alignment with the future” will become critically important in an environment where we will never have all the data required to make solid important decisions. Taking a holistic view of your complex environment helps develop a more realistic and fluent cap-acity to survive and suc-ceed now and in the future.