A few weeks ago I attended the Web Days in Stockholm, listening to Alexander Bard whose presentation was about networking organizations. A different structure compared to the hierarchic ones which has been the standard in our world since the days of Napoleon.
During many years I have pondered about some incidents that took place at Ericsson as I was working there as a consultant. At a meeting, for instance, the phrase “Why are we organizing in the probably most effective way only in times of crisis?” arised. Usually, people were put together when a critical situation appeared to facilitate discussions. However, when the problem was solved, everyone returned to their ordinary seat.
After implementing SCRUM, there were many protests against the fragmentation of the departments. Objectors argued that the line organiztion and its need to communicate with the employees was of highest importance. Obviously it was all based on the fact that the line organization was responsible for a number of modules and not a certain functionality. Likewise, the project managers were terrified of losing control over developers and testers. The project managers considered themselves in control of assignments and in charge of coordinating the work between the different line organization. In brief, the purpose of the project managers was to adjust the drawbacks of the line to enable communication between relevant employees. In practice, the projects were conducted through informal connections between individuals who had gotten to know each other over the years.
So, with one dysfunctional structure and an additional one with the purpose of compensating the former- what should be done? For instance, removing both of them and establishing a new structure based on the needs of communication to accomplish a task. Perhaps that is what Carlzon, former CEO of SAS, intended with “Riv pyramiderna!” in 1985. Speaking from personal experience, essential communication frequently takes place outside the conference room, as well as the final decisions. Settlements agreed on a meeting and later ignored by several individuals due to disagreement or absence from the meeting, is probably a familiar situation for many of you.
Some type of structure and decision models are probably necessary to coordinate the company, but in the first place a network organization would be the best alternative. There, all employees have a possibility to cooperate, as well as contact and discuss with whoever might be suitable. Numerous conventional tools for building these types of networks organizations are on the market today, for instance Slack.
I would also like to refer to my previous post about innovations, since I am convinced that network organizations have better opportunities of creating innovations. With the right encouragement from the management, employees with varying competence are able to find each other and establish innovative groups.
Given these points, a relevant questions is of course how all the tasks managed by the line organizations and project managers over the years will be handled. For instance, there are legal aspects such as attestation etc. which cannot and should not be changed. Various positions remain in the organization, however they will not necessarily be hierarchically organized. Altogether, the key is to revolutionize the ways of communication and promote employees on all levels talking to each other, instead of letting a hierarchic organization restrain free communication.