The Adaptive Path’s “Advocacy Program” of person-to-person employee support – Organizational design for geniuses

Adaptive Path is a design organization that focuses exclusively on the design of user experience (UX). In reading through some of their work, I recently uncovered their own analysis of their approach to their own management and accountability–what, as Kate Rutter explains, they call the Advocate Program:

Overall, the structure of Adaptive Path looks less like this:
Top-down model, not like Adaptive Path
And more like this:
Network - more like Adaptive Path

It is hard to imagine a greater opposition than that between the traditional bureaucratic hierarchy (dominant in most schools).

Whereas command, order, and control are dominant features of traditional management structures,  Adaptive Path’s Advocate Program is rooted in individual learning and the development of trust, freedom, and empowerment. Rutter explains:

The Advocate Program is a communication system designed to support and empower all employees. The role of the Advocate is to support, guide, push and to advocate for your success. Every person at Adaptive Path has an Advocate, and each Advocate/Advocatee relationship is unique to its members…

This human and interactive model of accountability is emblematic of the values of the organization and is, itself, an incredible example of organizational design (see my posts on values-based school design and on Ackoff et al.’s idealized design process). Rutter describes the values that underlie their management design:

Adaptive Path was founded on principles of personal responsibility, creativity, curiosity, mutual respect, self-determination, a healthy tolerance for ambiguity and a collective commitment to design that delivers great experiences that improve people’s lives. Having this foundation of shared values was an important starting point for a program that relies so heavily on interdependency.

The parallels between these organizational values and the design of the Advocate program are evident. Ultimately, effective organizational design depends on the clarity of purposes and the alignment between these purposes and the design choices made by the organization and its members. In the case of Adaptive Path, the Advocate Program represents a serious commitment to their actual, specific values–interdependence, personal responsibility, creativity–rather than a de facto acceptance of the values of traditional management structure with its emphasis on rules, efficiency, and control.

To this point, from Rutter:

But wait. Isn’t this really complicated and time-consuming?

Yep. One thing we know for sure it that it’s more complicated than a traditional command and control structure. But the purpose is less about maximizing organizational efficiencies and more about supporting overall individual and collective effectiveness and creating space for people to do their best work no matter what their role is within the organization.

Schools could stand to learn a lot about learning design from the Advocate program.

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