More questions of influence – size and complexity

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Phillip Casey, post-graduate student at Newcastle University, follows up our earlier Q&A with a couple more questions.

Is influence harder to manage as an organisation grows in size?

As before, beware the idea that influence can be managed per se. I'll assume you're referring to the considered design and monitoring of process, culture and operations more widely, to increase the likelihood that stakeholders are influenced and appropriate reciprocation is encouraged, in ways more conducive than otherwise to the organization achieving its goals and living up to its purpose.

Complexity of the influence system does tend to increase with organization size from my observations, and possibly by definition. But I'd caveat that by asserting that such observation should demand a response in organization design terms.

For example, for this and related sociological reasons, some champion the idea that teams should not exceed 150 or say 200 people in size, and when they do a bifurcation is in order so that teams can continue to operate at a human scale. Such a size hovers around a quantity known as Dunbar's number, and it's not yet clear whether new technologies / media might allow humans to coalesce effectively at a number greater than this pre-digital statistic. I'm hopeful that it does. One definition of social business I like to use is mutually valuable relationships at scale, implying we can still ensure what you might call a human response, as opposed to the dehumanizing "computer says no" variety for example.

And when I say teams I mean cross-disciplinary autonomous teams, what some might refer to as a strategic business unit, rather than say a marketing department or a sales department for example.

Do you think similar types of organisation have overlapping influence flows?

Organization is a system of systems and a system within systems. And influence is like water, it flows where it will. So yes, overlapping, underlapping, crosslapping, everywhichwaylapping!

Note: the Six Influence Flows is a mental check-list, a challenge and a reminder. It's not a systems diagram.

[Image by Martin Latter, BY-SA.]

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