Our capability of thinking and our ways of “perceiving, categorizing and making meaning in the world” are shaped by the language that we use [BORODITSKY-2011]. Therefore, uncovering a new language, in the form of an organizational pattern language, would make available to practitioners a shared and commonly understood lexicon with notational accuracy that may allow to better describe, express, and reason about organizational design concepts, and even discover entirely new concepts that may be completely missing from current organizational theory.
The generative nature of such an organizational pattern language would make available, to all practitioners in the industry, a new powerful tool for the exercise of effective organizational design in a pragmatic, assertive and actionable manner.
An organizational generative pattern language will provide a universally understood means by which organizational design decisions — those decisions that effectively “give form and shape” to the organization — can be described, communicated and, above all, acted upon.
Such a generative pattern language may allow practitioners to build an organization according to a detailed design specification expressed through the organizational pattern language, rather than through generic principles or abstract models of organizational design. Yet such a specification would not be deterministic, but adaptable, through generation, to the particular context.
In either case, an organizational pattern language would address the need to be able to better communicate about organizational design in a clear, accurate, intelligible and actionable manner.
In addition to the need to understand complex organizational design, and to have a design tool to express and construct organizational designs, there is a third need addressed by pattern languages.
It is obvious that an organizational design actually “happens” when there are interactions between designers, stakeholders, and users of the design. All these participants have different backgrounds, skills, abilities, and so on. There is no “shared framework, disciplinary orientation or other form of common ground” ([ERICKSON-2000]).
Communication about designs and design decisions becomes cumbersome, ambiguous, imprecise and often uneventful; and design is fundamentally a communicative process, like all immaterial processes.
Design patterns enjoy a number of representational properties (like evocative names, diagrams, etc.) which make them practical as a lingua franca ([ERICKSON-2000]) of the domain they describe, and can be used to overcome such weakness, and provide the missing “common ground.”
Therefore, a pattern language for organizational design constitutes an important means of expression that provides:
A descriptive notation for modeling and understanding organizational designs.
A tool for expressing actionable specifications of organizational designs, meaning that a design specification can be turned into real organizational structures.
A lingua franca for communicating and reasoning in unequivocal and precise terms about organizational designs between different designers, stakeholders, and users of the design.