This article takes a close hard look at Organization Design. We asked ourselves, why should we write about Organization Design amidst times when managers all across the world, are facing unnerving dilemmas and painful transitions, as they struggle to respond to a global downturn, under a looming threat of a possible collapse of western capitalism.

We believe that many of these dilemmas that leadership confront today were seeded a long time ago in the way organizations have been designed over the years. And this thread of perspectives is often ignored as CEOs look at tough choices around managing the polarities of ‘ethics versus expediency’, ‘invest versus harvest’, ‘local versus global’, ‘community welfare versus wealth maximization of investors’ etc.

Some of the above mentioned challenges are mere consequences of unquestioned axioms and inherent assumptions of organization design and cultures laid down decades ago. These axioms have only perpetuated inefficiencies and reinforced greed; that lie beneath the tide of positive cash flows and profitability as organizations scale up in size and complexity.
When we dialogue with the practicing managers on how organization design is held in the mind, we often come across a simplistic yet dynamic image – that of pyramidal structures depicting complex hierarchies along with associated privileges, that of management control systems and a host of processes and procedures, and that of conformist cultures reinforcing compliant follower-ship, dependencies, and mediocrity.

In this article, we present a conceptual framework – the Tensegrity Mandala, evolved from our consulting experience that provides a new set of perspectives in visualizing, understanding, and designing the modern organization today. We discovered that our ideas, mental models, and constructs were getting restricted and impeded by our language. Our language was not allowing us to explicate the
plurality, the diversity, and the multiple realities within Organization design. In our search for new language and models, we serendipitously discovered many insights and pioneering ideas of Buckminster Fuller, Stafford Beer, Anthony Judge, Prasad Kaipa, and others. Their perspectives energized us further in our attempt to discover organizations and their manifold realities through a comprehensive model.

This paper introduces an action-researched model that builds on the concept of Tensegrity. We have integrated Tensegrity with our understanding of organizational socio-psychology, and our underlying philosophy that has its roots in Indian thought. However we would like to emphasize that its application is not restricted to the Indian or Oriental geographies, but for any organization across the globe.

We wish to explore the following two questions:
1. How is the “Role based Tensegrity Mandala’ model different from other perspectives on design?
2. How do we link the ‘Role’ with individual identity as well as with organization effectiveness?