Everything in and around an enterprise has evolved. Rapid fire change underpins the current business environment. We used to prefix sustainable to competitive advantage now we prefix ephemeral to it.
However the classic organization structure has pretty much remained grounded in history. There are functions. There are hierarchies. There are silos. These silos run deep and wide within the enterprise. They give rise to bureaucratic, rigid behavior. Rigid behavior cements into stiff beliefs, which finally result in an inflexible, frigid organization culture.
The classic organization structure and consequent rigid organization culture creeks and squeaks when subjected to the strong and unrelenting forces of change around it.
This is the problem. The organizations of today have a fundamental design flaw and cannot cope with today’s business environment. A re-think is required.
The issue is that organization structures today are like whales whereas the archetype required to face off with the challenges of today is a shoal of fish – integrated in purpose however structurally designed to change course swiftly and accurately. I suggest we reinvent the hierarchical structure which did well for enterprises of the past and change it to a honeycomb structure for the organizations of the future. Each cell in this organizational honeycomb is autonomous and performs a specific service with a specific outcome.
There is no cell for monitoring and control. As in the cells which make up organic life, no cell overseas the work of the other one. Each cell is self-motivated, self-directed, has a mission aligned with the larger purpose of the enterprise and just goes about doing it’s work without incurring a large overhead of reporting into a larger than life ‘supervisory’ cell.
There is no cell called the HR cell. Acquisition, retention and motivation of staff are embedded as processes within each cell. After all how can a cell perform its service if it doesn’t have the right human resources to perform that service? So the HR process and its responsibilities are not relegated to another cell, each cell manages its human resources within and creates an intimate bond within the cell.
There is a leadership cell. It is responsible for setting direction and designing strategies to propel the entire honeycomb towards that direction. There is a production cell, responsible for producing stuff. There is a policies cell responsible for managing policies and dealing with regulatory issues. Like so. Each of the cells is autonomous, an independent value creating unit and there is no hierarchy in the honeycomb structure. It’s a network of high performing, independent cells glued together with a visionary purpose. Designed from ground up for change.
Thinking about outsourcing a particular function, take a cell out and replace it with that of your partner. No need to disrupt the entire organizational hierarchy. Thinking about vertical integration, link in another cell to the honeycomb. Thinking of focusing on the core, take a few cells off the honeycomb and sell them off. Economy gone south and you need to cut costs. Look at those cells which have the farthest line of sight from your customer and home in on those for cost reduction. Globalization is becoming the fad of the day and your shareholders getting carried away by its promise, go on, link in a few cells from across boundaries to the honeycomb.
A structure of this sort will also have diversity embedded in its very nature. Each cell will have its own mini-culture so the organization will have at its disposal a kaleidoscope of cultures which it can leverage to surmount the many challenges thrown at it from the external environment. It will also help organizations to crack the dichotomous goals of growing big but still remaining entrepreneurial.