Companies today accept an abhorrent level of dysfunction as the status quo. Studies show that knowledge-workers spend half their day in meetings and employee engagement is at an all-time low. More people than ever hate their jobs and many feel they are drowning in bureaucracy and politics.
It affects everything: the top-line, the bottom-line and employee esteem.
When company culture encourages employees to seek performance feedback from their peers instead of customers, reporting is skewed to impress rather than assess; problems that impact customers are hidden instead of fixed. Departments play blame games between each other to save their own derrières rather than fix problems and serve customers. Knowledge workers spend more time collaborating than getting work done and are measured by how well they play politics instead of customer satisfaction and repeat purchases.
The assembly line utopia many think of as being the target for work processes, except that each person has to have a meeting with their neighbors before any task can be completed. As the company grows, your neighbors grow from a few, to a few dozen and before you know it ten meetings need to take place before you complete a simple task.It all started when the division of labor proved triumphant for manufacturers in the early 1900s. This established an accepted status quo that stronger specialization improves productivity, leading to the hierarchical structure of organizations we all know today. We treat knowledge-workers like an assembly line and force, unnatural, extreme specializations using the same rationale as the division of labor. This obsession with specialization has become an engrained part of our thinking since childhood, but the assembly line doesn’t translate well to modern work environments.
We have to abandon the assembly line mindset and adopt new models of organizing employees; one that is organized around the customer. Specialization is needed to an extent, but what we need more of are experts on individual customers and markets. Generalists with cross-functional experience and diverse backgrounds improve organizational agility, productivity and decision-making.
Just as technology and business culture have evolved since the early 1900s, so must our antiquated organizational structure. Dion Hinchcliffe’s model of pods of employees, who are each organized around a business process or customer interaction offers a much better model by putting workers into smaller, more functional teams that are organized around the customer.
For example, a pod could include sales, marketing, and support staff responsible for the hospital market. Unlike the departmental structure, when teams are organized around markets, everyone shares the same objectives, performance measurements, and compensation structure. They are compensated the same way. They can collaborate in a tight-knit group that achieves success or failure together. No hiding underperformers. No room for slack. And no politics between giant department fiefdoms. No stifling processes and workflows to keep everyone in-line.
The best way to get people to act like they’re on the same team is to actually put them on the same team.
How are you innovating your organization structure?