The Flat Organization


As I described in my closer look at transformation, one of the key enablers of the future enterprise is Structural Change. This slide from a conference presentation I delivered this week speaks to some of the drivers of structural change. A key driver on this list is the ineffectiveness of command and control models in the future business environment.

Structural Change

As command and control slowly disappears, new models emerge and questions about effective ways to manage in flatter organizations arise. I recently fielded one such question during  the above mentioned presentation on the future enterprise. The response focused on culture, the corporate value system, collaboration, communication, openness, transparency and trust. One great example of a flat company that exhibits many of these characteristics is not surprisingly an Internet company – Google. Google’s approach is outlined in a recent Article from the Harvard Business Review . Additional thoughts on moving towards an open and transparent culture can be found in this IBM CEO Study from 2012.

Examples of companies that are starting to create these new models are emerging – and I firmly believe that it’s only a matter of time before structures suited for the digital age take hold. There are still many skeptics out there – and no one has this all figured out. Leaders of the Industrial revolution era created the management structures that enabled business in that era. It’s time for leaders in this very different era to re-imagine these structures for the present day environment.

A Closer Look at Transformation: Structural Change


This closer look at transformation now shifts to the enablers. By way of summary, we have covered the forcing function piece of the diagram below; those forces that drive leaders to invest in a future state. In the absence of a burning platform, one must turn to vision as a catalyst for change in what promises to be the most transformative period in history. Once the impetus for change is established, what are the enablers of change? Where do companies invest to move towards that future state? The enabler side of the visual identifies those facilitators of change that allow us to address the forcing functions and build a path towards the future. The next nine posts will address each of these individually, starting with structural change.

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