In our experience, there are a few common characteristics of anticipant organizations that allow them to act differently from traditional entities. We’d like to share a handful of those with you before we describe how to transform your own organization into one of them.
One way to deduce the nature of an organization is to note which function takes the lead in that chain. If yours is a technology company, your research and development branch takes the lead (no innovation, no growth). If yours is a grocery store, your supply chain management is key (no bananas, no sales). If yours is a charity, your project management gets top billing (no efficiency, no funding). If yours is a battalion in the field, your senior officers are in charge (no orders, no headway). Ultimately, which department takes the lead depends on what your mission is. Or it should.
During routine operations, the lead function rides near the top of the chain of command, with the authority it needs to dictate how the organization operates. Orders go down, reports come back up. But when a crisis arises, that tidy arrangement can be an impediment to initiative. At that point, each layer in the organization chart is a damper, a brake, a governor. In a nanocrisis, adherence to the org chart is the kiss of death. So, the first hallmark of an anticipant organization is elasticity.
Anticipant organizations have a dynamic chain of command. The org chart in such entities is explicitly designed to collapse in crisis and expand when the crisis has ended. In the military, such periods are war and peace. In non-military environments, they are the nanocrisis and the routine operation. In crisis, the organization chart is deliberately collapsed.
When the colonel can talk to a sniper with a target steady in his sights, the org chart can be only two levels deep. But that works only because, during that crisis, the colonel has access to all the information and all the people all the time. That’s a three-part advantage that all anticipant organizations can make use of.