Home > Strategy Shift > The Awesome Power of Pull, Part II: The Pull Organization

The Awesome Power of Pull, Part II: The Pull Organization

Now that we have discussed the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of a Push-based organization, I think it is safe to start discussing the Pull-based design and how it is different from the mechanical Push organization.  We’ve already said that Push organizations are efficient, results-oriented, and structured.  This is the case for every Push organization and every one of the “wanna-be-Pull” designs that have been tried in the last decade or so.

Some of these pseudo-Pulls are the Functional, Divisional, and the Matrix organization.  Funny thing is, even though they pose as innovative, they all pretty much end up being rigid and fragile in the new paradigm.  So, if the Push organization was mechanically structured, how can one describe a system which does not depend upon the ideas of top-down management?

It means throwing away a lot of things you were taught about hierarchical organizations.

Let’s start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a Pull-based organization and maybe you will start to see what needs to be checked at the door:

Strength Weakness
Flexibility Against the Unexpected Inefficient
Requires No Theories (or Consultants) Burns Resources
Environment is Assumed Ideal Unpredictable Outcomes
Embraces Innovation and Invention Not Easily Measurable and Transparent
Self-Reinforces Against Hidden Risks Can Be Irrational
Never Gets “Too Big to Fail” Not Always Repeatable
Black, White, Grey, Blue, Red…etc. No Plug and Play Models
Handles Complexity Well Highly Unstructured
Wise Requires Practice
Creates Emergent Value Knowledge Agnostic

If it appears that I have flipped the script from the other Strengths & Weaknesses table, you are not mistaken.  One of the wonders of this great and infinitely open system called “reality” are these fun little paradoxes which appear to be opposites.  The true embrace begins however, when we stop seeing them as opposites and start to see them as equals to be applied where their strengths are needed.

The greatest future (and present) leaders will be wise enough to effectively choose a Push or Pull approach for the operation at hand, all the while being comfortable with the strange loops their decisions create.  It takes a bit of bravery to move into this space and effective leaders will need to be courageous enough to break the mold and abandon the expectations pushed upon them.

If there is a change management plan to all of this it is this: Embrace Paradox and Uncertainty!

Next up:  What does a Pull team look like?  If it is not “commanded” to form, how does it form?

(NOTE:  I have abandoned the discussion of individual personality in this series of posts.  I think that by reading about Push & Pull Organizations you will get who likes to be where.  If you don’t, here’s a summary:  Push can be considered managing others & Pull is self management.  Control-based people like Push…Flaky creatives like Pull.)

  1. Alan Belniak
    November 16, 2009 at 1:43 AM

    Another great post in the series. I like them all so far. I’m not so sure I agree with the hyperbolic approach to the ‘weaknesses’ column of the pull chart, but I take your overall meta-point. In addition, I know (or think!) you are trying to generalize the push v. pull personality types in your concluding N.B., but I think that is too broad a generalization. For example, I’m a recovering engineer 🙂 and even know other rigid types who seem to get the pull mentality and even crave it at times – yet that seemingly doesn’t fit the mold you construct. In any event, this isn’t a disagreement with it, but rather a challenge/suggestion to craft out this argument a bit more in a future post (aside from the Q&A posted over at Harvard Business Review).

    • November 16, 2009 at 3:16 AM

      Yeah, there is a whole list of others I could have put in the table, but the choice was indeed an artistic way of making a point. And as for the personality type thingy: You comments are another reason why I chose to avoid writing about that subject.

      (Oh, and did I mention Push people like things explained in detail (crisply defined) and don’t like generalities?) 🙂

  2. Alan Belniak
    November 16, 2009 at 12:12 PM


  1. February 9, 2010 at 5:01 PM

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