What in the world is “Boundaryless” and why should you care?


You know the world is changing and is changing at a rapid pace.  However, unbelievable to some, new technology is accelerating and pushing our world even faster.  With this change, our lives are changing, our businesses are changing and our communities are changing.

Today, unlike the very recent past, you can’t just focus on your business without at least touching on people’s lives and the community around your business.  As a business leader you most likely understand this but, if you are like the vast majority of leaders, your current approaches and tools are not working like they use to.

You know that people are an important asset within your business. However, in today’s world, unlike an asset where you try to utilize them most effectively, you need to nurture and let them grow. You do this by focusing on what they are experiencing in your business and determine how to improve that experience.

Yes, this will require a different way of thinking about your business.  It will also require a different way to operate your business.  You see, when you focus on what your employees get from your business this includes the community around the business too as that is where your employees experience a good portion of their lives away from your business.

Yes, this is a little mind bending, but stay with me on this as it will be worth it for your business.

You see, Boundaryless work, Boundaryless world, Human performance all terms recently used and found in the 2024 Global Human Capital Trends1 study by Deloitte.  In this report you will discover why these things are more important now more than ever before.

The concept of boundaryless is not a new concept and has been around for some time. In this 1992 Harvard Business review article, “The New Boundaries of the “Boundaryless” Company2 the author writes the following is embodied in the concept of boundaryless,

“In an economy founded on innovation and change, one of the premier challenges of management is to design more flexible organizations. Companies are replacing vertical hierarchies with horizontal networks; linking together traditional functions through interfunctional teams; and forming strategic alliances with suppliers, customers, and even competitors. Managers are insisting that every employee understand and adhere to the company’s strategic mission without distinction of title, function, or task.”

I always find it interesting when we talk in terms of “trends” when really these trends have been in the works for decades and sometimes even much longer.

The term “boundaryless organization” was apparently coined by Jack Welsh3 during his time at GM back in the 1990’s.  More recently, in 2013 and evolving from there, a company called Boundaryless SRL has been releasing open source frameworks4 and toolkits to help organizations move towards this boundaryless structure.

Yes, there is a lot to this change, however, your business doesn’t have to throw away what you are doing and start a new.  You can ease into this.

Part of the strength of this new approach is to enable your employees to get done what needs to get done while creating a better environment and connection for themselves to the business, business cause and the community the business serves.

In the recent Deloitte study it highlights this knowing-doing gap.  It suggests as leaders it is known that these changes need to be done, however, there is an issue with the doing part. This gap in knowing-doing has negatively effected employees. “In 2018, over 40% of workers reported feeling high stress in their job, with negative impacts on productivity, health, and family stability.”5 It is suggested that these negative effects to employees is based on outdated means of measurement and operations.

One major aspect of this stood out to me.  The studies and approaches say that organizations and employees lack the imagination capacity required to create new ways of operating and working.  Further, the Deloitte study suggest creating digital playgrounds for employees to “explore, experiment and play”1

I see driving creativity a little differently based on experiences working with large employee bases over many years. You can’t simply create the spaces and let the employees go to become more creative.

To relieve stress and boost creativity you have to create the opportunities for play for adults. As many adults don’t know how to play, it is better to guide them into play. From Psych Central, “The Importance of Play for Adults”6 the post offers approaches to adult play.

We have found a big component of adult play in businesses to reduce stress and drive creativity can come from well planned employee experiences curated within the business.  These are the moments you celebrate together and create connections and a sense of “fun” amongst your employees.

Our world is change and will continue to change at an explosive rate.  New approaches and frameworks are available for your business to embrace what works for you, your employees and the community around you.  One key element is to create and environment where “fun” is a big part of your employees day.  All of this will make your business stronger and more successful for years to come.

1.    https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends.html
2.    https://hbr.org/1992/05/the-new-boundaries-of-the-boundaryless-company
3.    https://jwu.pressbooks.pub/principlesofmanagement/chapter/7-4-contemporary-forms-of-organizational-structures
4.    https://www.boundaryless.io/pdt-framework
5.    https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace.aspx
6.    https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-importance-of-play-for-adults 

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