How are you Shaping your Organization?

Ray Dalio has recently coined the term “Shapers” to mean people who have a vision and make it happen.  Let’s take a look at how our actions shape our organization. Traditionally, Organization-Shapers are executives, but let’s see if we can apply “Shaper-thinking” to everyone in the organization.

Can an individual contributor be an Organization-Shaper?  How can you shift from simply doing what you're told, into shaping the future?  Is Shaping for everyone, or do some people naturally want to be told what to do?

Here are some thinking tools that have helped me become more of a Shaper.  

  1. Know your Mission.  I have a mission at work to “make IT organizations more productive, healthy and fun.”  Your mission might be different, but this is mine. Every initiative I work on is a means to promote my life’s mission.  For example, an assignment to present status to executives is a great opportunity to share ways that the team is improving productivity, health, and fun.

  2. Align your Mission with the Organization.  It certainly helps that my mission to improve productivity is aligned with the goals of most organizations.  If your mission is not aligned with your organization’s interests, something is going to have to change.

  3. View your Organization as a Machine, and yourself as the Machine Operator.  Think about putting your energy into pulling levers that will have the biggest impact on your machine.  You can view these levers as the traditional “people, processes and tools”. Don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter, focus on what you need to do to effectively operate the machine.

  4. Shaping the Organization as an Individual Contributor.  Don’t wait until you are in charge to be a shaper. Individual contributors can affect the “machine” through process and tools, and even influence people.  For example, if you are a project manager your project is a “machine” that you could be shaping. Stop simply collecting status and herding people.  Start shaping the future by building the “Project Machine”.

How are you shaping your Organization?  We'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Operate your organization like you are operating a machine.
— Ray Dalio