The Importance of an Organizational Thesis

Thesis writing has long been the focus of academics and investors around the world. So, you might be curious to wonder how it stumbles into the purview of Alignment Management. After all, doesn’t Alignment Management focus on getting the right people focused around the right things at the right time?

Actually, thesis generation is a powerful tool of alignment. The many conversations that occur during and after thesis generation can lead to powerful group insights that produce stronger group cohesion.

As tools of alignment for a company, theses can serve to:

  • Increase focus in your organization
  • Help your people to understand which opportunities to pursue and which to pass on
  • Clarify your brand messaging to employees and customers

What does a good thesis look like?

In an ideal world, a good thesis tells others a truth that your company knows about the world. It is particularly useful if your thesis shares some uncommon wisdom, such as an insight or valuable perspective on an industry, opportunity or the world-at-large. Consider one of our main theses at Minsilo:

One of the greatest untapped opportunities for companies is a deep understanding of behavioral psychology and how to design products and businesses that are aware of the human element.

We could write a whole book on this topic alone. Good organizational theses can catalyze valuable insights about how to operate a business and make decisions. They can even be useful tools for spurring new innovations. Our previously mentioned thesis statement is even relevant to Alignment Management as a field of management, because a large part of organizational alignment is rooted in organizational behavior.

We believe know that understanding people on a deeper level than blind observation (or worse, “conventional wisdom”) and can lead to some powerful insights into how to better design businesses – especially since businesses are no more than groups of people with structure that allows them to participate in controlled, collective value creation – and drive growth.

A good thesis does not need to be devoid of normative statements or viewpoints. In fact, well-written theses can help to promote better ethics. It can be useful to lead your people toward execution that helps to realize a better, more ethical world. At its most basic, a normative thesis can help to align your people toward a common understanding of how the world should be. For example, the statement “open source technology leads to more innovation at a faster pace” may not seem overtly like a normative statement (it is), but it essentially suggests that:

  • Open source technology is good
  • Innovation is good
  • Speed and agility is important

One of the powerful (but also duty-bound) aspects of thesis writing is that most audiences will not rigorously challenge the thesis, especially if its not directly touching on a controversial topic. We implore you to actively challenge your company’s thesis statements and continually evaluate them for alignment with your company’s purpose and values, as well as your strategic positioning. Key Insights

When considering what your company’s theses look like, keep the following in mind:

  • Many large-scale investors – in venture capital, private equity, and public markets – have a thesis about how they invest. Investments of time, money and human capital shouldn’t be treated any differently.
  • A good thesis can be summarized in a brief and readily understood manner. Try to keep the summarized version down to 1-2 digestible sentences. It helps to focus your people’s thinking and create the correct structure.
  • Examples demonstrating your thesis are powerful ways to teach people and engage them in productive discourse.
  • Consider utilizing the Case Study Method with your company’s thesis; the method essentially connects a thesis with a real world case (example) and then has participants actively discuss, dissect, and debate the case. The Case Study Method is used by some of the most highly ranked MBA programs, including at Harvard Business School and UVA’s Darden School of Business.
  • There is considerable research to support the notion that creativity is boosted by having the right kinds of structure. In research, many academics will encourage you to clearly define and articulate your thesis statement at the beginning of the research project. This structure gives you enough information to be focused, but not too much that you don’t think “outside of the box.”
  • Good thesis building is intellectually honest. It is not intended to be a once-and-done process; rather, good thesis development is an iterative and collaborative process. You should encourage everybody (including yourself) to regularly challenge your view and adapt it to new information and new insights. The process of refining your thesis – and the conversations this process triggers – is often as valuable as the thesis itself.
  • Thesis writing should not be rigid, but rather a reflection of a truth your company knows about the world and is executing around. Unlike an axiom, which is just a statement of something observed to be true, a thesis is a living opinion about the world; a thesis is not necessarily only factual (as it can contain opinion), but it should be rooted in fact.
  • The language and format you use for your thesis does not need to be demonstrably academic for a thesis to be valuable. It’s helpful to use language that everybody can understand, especially if you intend to use the thesis to guide your people.

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Ryan Leaf

Ryan is the founder of Minsilo. He is passionate about autonomous teams, the future of work, and organizational alignment. Previously, Ryan was a software architect at Cobu. You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @RyanLeafPM.