Developing a community interested in sideways organizing
The short introduction, below, to the metaphor of the side stance is an invitation
to become involved in a community of people who are exploring new forms of organizing.
Here are some of the people who have expressed interest in sideways organizing, and some
notes on the development of a Professional Development Workshop related to sideways organizing,
which we developed as part of the Positive Organizational Scholarship 2006 conference. Please join us!
Sideways organizing is a way we have found to talk about some new forms of organizing we have observed.
The idea of “sideways” organizing comes from the side stance that is used in skating (skate boarding),
in which the body is re-positioned relative to the trajectory of movement, leading with the shoulder. We
adopt the side stance as a metaphor for this type of organizing because we see some similarities between
the way skaters relate to their sport and the way people in the organizations we have observed relate to
their work. In both cases we see a distinct orientation (which skaters call the side stance) and practices
and routines that derive from this orientation. In the following we describe the side stance and the practices
and routines we have observed. First, we want to be clear that this has everything to do with positive organizational studies.
How is sideways organizing positive?
The practices and routines in the contexts we have observed are a well spring for positive deviance. We think
these practices and routines serve to promote positive organizing because of two features that also connect the
organizing we have observed to skating.
1. Both skating and the kind of organizing we have been observing are about claiming the space of activity as a creative space.
Skaters reclaim the urban environment as a place for youth where play is legitimate when they use the concrete structures for skating.
People who work in organizations claim (perhaps more than reclaim) the work environment as a place in which human concerns are
legitimate when they practice sideways organizing.
2. Both skating and sideways organizing are about having autonomy over one’s activity. Skating is largely a self-structured and
self-organized activity compared with other sports activities that tend these days to be organized by adults. Skaters make the rules for
skating not coaches, leagues, parents, etc. Sideways organizing also encourages people to claim autonomy over their work and to make decisions
about how they do their work.
Images of the side stance:
What is the side-stance?
The side-stance provides a distinctive orientation that combines forward motion with attention to the here and now. As skater Mike Vuckovich says,
“It’s really subtle, but when you’re standing and you turn your head to look over your shoulder as opposed to standing straight and looking straight ahead,
it’s only a 90-degree difference, but it’s 180 degrees in terms of your psychology.” (Quoted in Briskick, 2004, Have Board Will Travel)
In organizational scholarship, this “side stance” orientation enables seeing old contexts in new lights. Associated with the side stance are orientations
to the activity itself, to the relationship between process and outcome, to self and others and to context that are different from the orientations that are
typically thought to be displayed in organizations. These are reflected in practices and routines that are distinctive.
Here are some examples of the sideways stance from skating as well as in an organizational context