We have a pretty clear picture of what a social organization looks like on the outside - marketing and sales becomes a pull rather than a push discipline and customers are much more involved throughout the customer lifecycle. But what does this new organization look and feel like on the inside? There are not many discussions of how employment and management structures change to become more agile.
There is more agreement on the issues:
- Slow moving, rigid organizations do not adapt to increasingly fast moving markets.
- Siloed information within organizations creates huge redundancy issues and makes efficiency difficult.
- It is quite challenging to hire individuals that can operate in large inefficient organizations and drive innovation or think differently and therefore organizations lack the 'best and the brightest' talent.
- Certain kinds of talent, particularly in the area of collaboration, are poorly identified and rewarded.
- Middle management is incented to protect their turf and hoard information leading to archaic corporate politics and huge inefficiency for the organization.
- The hiring and layoff cycles have created immense distrust of employers.
- Employees are increasingly stressed due to unease about their job stability, the deluge of information, and increasing responsibility to fund their own health insurance and retirement.
- Families with two working parents are strained for time. Families with one working parent are increasingly uneasy about the risk of one paycheck. Single adults are increasingly stressed because they are viewed as the employees most ready to work long hours.
- More and more individuals want to be in control of their own work life since the perceived risk of working for a large organization is not significantly lower (and may be greater) than the risk working for themselves.
Most organizations have a long way to go to be places that employees are clamoring to work for but in the new communications environment that clamoring employee enthusiasm will drive revenues and market share if it exists. That employee enthusiasm also drives alignment with corporate values and messaging, increases opportunities because all employees are advocates, an decreases risks because employees feel more individual responsible for protecting the interests of the organization.
So what might this organizational nirvana look like?
Employment becomes a cross between a long-term commitment and free-agency: The organization provides employee overhead (benefits) in exchange for a commitment to work a minimum number of hours on organizational projects.
Managers are either focused on professional development or projects: Managers no longer 'own' a functional piece of the business but either manage a group of employees to help them choose projects and navigate their career or they manage projects.
Employees and Project Managers Negotiate Work Commitments: Employees are free to self-commit to projects for which they are interested and have time. Project managers define project roles, time needed, and associated pay and are responsible for recruiting team members and managing the project to completion. Employees can work as little (as long as the reach the minimum required for employment) or as much as they feel they are able to at that time. Project managers can solicit specific employees or change the pay to get employee commitment. This has the side affect of paying more, not less, for tedious or unappealing jobs.
Employees Manage Their Schedules. If an employee has a family member with an illness and needs to work the minimum required, they choose their project commitments accordingly. If on the other hand, they have time and want more hours to maximize their income, they can choose a heavy schedule.
Employees define themselves by skill sets, attributes, and experience based on a published taxonomy so that project managers can find and solicit team members.
360 Degree Reviews. Everyone on a project gets to review the performance of everyone else, with some templates and guidelines to do so based on organizational values and goals.
Executive Tasks Are Earned. Based on the successful completion of projects that represent bigger and bigger pieces of business, executives earn the right to budget or more loosely defined (risky/innovative) projects. Some executives will continue to select projects with bigger budgets and some executives will likely continue to choose more innovative projects, depending on their interests.
A Senior Executive Team Is Still Necessary. The C-Suite will still set the overall strategic direction and priorities for the organization - with plenty of input. The C-Suite will also oversee the initiation of projects, the arbitration of issues between teams, and they will ensure gaps are being addressed.
All Projects Are Vetted, Prioritized, Budgeted and Scheduled. Any employee or customer can initiate a project but there are various committees, depending on the size and purpose of the project, that vets and schedules them. These committees are filled with project managers that rotate on and off of them, based on the interest of the project manager themselves in participating.
Customers Can Be Project Team Members. If a customer is particularly invested in a particular project and have the appropriate skills, they are incorporated into projects.
The overhead of organizing in this way has been too high in the past, particularly for very large organizations. However, technology - both enterprise functional software as well as networked communications software - has made the overhead of managing this complexity much easier. Models similar to this exist in the professional service world - the big management consulting, marketing, and accounting firms. I think it's time to test it out in more traditional organizations as well.
Generally we need to get away from the parental model of the organization to one that views employees as partners and both treats them and expects them to act like adult peers. This will require an adjustment for many employees as well - there are many people who like the easiness of just being told what to do but that makes them sub-performing employees which organizations can no longer aford if they want to compete globally.
This model also introduces new issues and risks - what are some of these issues in your mind?
Update: One emerging model that I really love is uTest - for more on their business model innovations, built around community, read their latest update here.