A few months ago, we discussed 4 macro level trends anticipated in the next decade from a human capital perspective and last week, I discussed a micro trend. Continuing the dialogue, this week is about organizational design models. There continues to be a surging of unique trends towards how organizations are designed. The traditional hierarchical models of a pyramid (boss at top, workers at bottom) or even matrix models traditionally found in service businesses are disappearing.
These older models existed because (1) expertise and knowledge typically existed higher in the model, (2) there had to be someone held accountable, and (3) the folks below needed to be led. These models worked fairly well …until recently. The newer models seem to be much less concerned about accountability and more focused on performance. Inherent in the traditional models were bureaucracies and personal politics that significantly compromised performance, individually and collectively.
In the newer flatter models, there are still leaders and followers but not so many layers in between, and that ratio seems to be evening out and actually shifting towards more leaders than followers. In others words, when an employee feels empowered and is driven to leverage all the tools available today for better decision-making (the collective human knowledge is now free and accessible), then really, organizations need to set goals and truly get the heck out of the way. The flatter models are working and they are working great.
In addition to being flat, they are also virtual and function-based as opposed to departmental or vocation-based. So, whoever has the expertise necessary to achieve a goal is sought after and their knowledge is harnessed. In some cases, this functional expertise could very well be outside the traditional walls of an organization. As we start 2010, let’s be open to performance instead of accountability, to flatter models instead of traditional hierarchies, and to achieving greater success by empowering those who we compensate to perform.