In this interview, you will meet Mike Arauz (@mikearauz), a founding member and acting president of August, a New York-based consulting firm which helps organizations keep up in an increasingly fast-paced world. Mike is also a co-author of Responsive.org and will be at this year’s conference.
What is Responsive Org?
Responsive.org is a website, where myself and a handful of other people (team listed here) described a few of the fundamental principles that we thought described a new way of working (see the Manifesto). Now, there’s a Facebook group with about a thousand people connected to it, and a Slack community that is radically self-organized, with a ton of really bright and passionate people on to connect with.
How did you first know there was a need for Responsive Org?
When I was working at Undercurrent (a since-closed management consulting firm), we kept running into this problem that even if you have a good team and good people, their good ideas still can’t get out the door — either at all, or they can’t get out the door fast enough because of the organizational barriers that are in place. That’s what led us to notice these larger organizational problems. We then started diving deep into figuring out: what are the underlying problems, why are they problems, and why can’t these teams get their work done. For example, why does it take a year to get a new website done inside a big corporation, when it only takes two weeks inside a small startup?
These were the problems we were trying to solve that led us to this Responsive Organization worldview. As it turns out, a bunch of other people were already doing their own thinking about these problems under all kinds of different labels, all of which made sense to us. Once we started talking about these problems with our clients, everyone was interested, and in particular, the most senior leaders at our client organizations were interested. These were the questions and these were the problems that they felt most acutely.
What does the future of work look like to you?
I believe that there is a revolution bubbling up — that individuals inside of organizations feel a tension between the organization they work in, which is designed to operate for a world that no longer exists, and them trying to do their work. In other words, they’re trying to do good, fulfilling work, and the organization is getting in their way. Next, they will either quit the organization, work independently, or join a new company, or the organization will go out of business because it will become so dysfunctional or so unfit for today’s competitive environment that it will be forced out of business.
It is my hope, and our hope at August, that people enabled by their knowledge about how things could be will change the organizations that they work in from the inside out. I see the early stages of that big shift, and that big potential revolution in how we work, happening now. There are people now, all over the world, who are thinking about this. People are coming at it from a really wide range of perspectives, and it’s all aligned.
From my perspective, this is becoming a pretty powerful movement. However, it’s not mainstream yet, in the sense that no big leaders or significant organizations are talking about this explicitly, and no one has a name for what to call it. But a lot of people recognize the problems we’ve been talking about, and that‘s the thing that makes me so confident about the shift — even though leaders in these organizations don’t have a label for what they want to do or what they want to become, they very much recognize and appreciate the problems and want to fix them.
Tell me more about August. What do you do there?
Coming up with a label for what we do is challenging, and I think it’s a big open and important question in our industry and in our work right now. But I would describe August as an organizational design consulting firm. We’re based in Brooklyn, and we help organizations, large and small, change the way they work in order to be better suited and better fit for this new world we live in — in which complexity and constant change is the normal mode.
What is the purpose of August?
At the heart of August, we create capable teams for meaningful missions. When we think about what makes a team capable in today’s world, it’s really about being able to sense and respond to changes in environment as quickly as possible. That’s the most concise way to describe what we think of when we think of being capable as a team.
As for meaningful missions, at a very microscale that can be the mission of any small team inside any organization — even inside of an organization that you might think of as not doing particularly meaningful work for the world. However, at a microscale, there are human beings on these teams who have jobs that support their families and their loved ones, and they want to come into work and do well every day. They want to contribute, and they want to feel fulfilled and engaged in what they do — and that is its own important sense of meaning. We start with that, and our ambitions are to tackle even bigger and more world changing missions over time.
Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine