Mashing Up The Enterprise

In this post, I take a look at the Inverted Pyramid Organisational structure, and how I see it being applied within my business context.

I’m often watching Military History programmes, though I’ve not been in the Armed Forces. One of the overriding principles that I have picked up is that chains of command are prevalent. 

In business (or other organisations), we often rely on those same chains of command.  When I was briefly in a startup Neighbourhood Watch scheme about 4 months before I left Leicester as a graduate (in 1994), a complex organisation chart introduced me to this principle.

This was initially a typical “A” pyramid, with the Police head at the top, flowing down to regional and watch leaders, with the final volunteers at the bottom

Then one of the keys that held this together was turned on its head. The organisation chart was turned into a “V” model, with the Volounteers at the top. This was new to me then, although since espoused by many – The Visual World contains one of my favourite explanations.

This demonstrated to the Volunteers that they were the most important people to the Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and the various leaders and coordinators were merely there to enable the Neighbourhood Watch volunteers to do their jobs. 

In business, we suffer the same stagnation.  During my degree, we made a case study of Taylorism (or scientific management), which can be distilled into “Managers Think, Workers Do”.  Perhaps we suffer from this particularly in the UK.

A more postmodern principle (and one that I learnt from that early exposure in the Neighbourhood Watch) is that managers more often need to serve and enable their staff and workers, not think for them.

This is what I mean by mashing up the enterprise, and it’s a very hard pattern to learn. We need to link up and communicate with so many other members of the organisation, to enable collaboration and working together to efficiently happen.

Within SELEX, we recently held what we termed Working Together days, as part of our Culture Change programme.  Every employee (not just managers and leaders) was placed on an away day (we split the company up into 5 away days) and given a mix of short presentations, and “table discussions”.

What was abundantly apparent from the table discussions was how far we’ve come in collaborating and working together, mashing up our own enterprise in ways that had not before been instantiated.

I was really pleased to see this, since we are suffering from a lack of use of our formal collaboration tool as described here. 

We still have a formal structure, shown on the organisation charts as the typical “A” pyramid, however more and more we’re starting to see this getting turned into a “V” within individual teams.  I personally hope to do all I can to enable us to turn the full corner to become truly a collaborative enterprise.

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About Tim Heywood

Brief Bio: work: Information Systems governance, electronic security, best business use of computer apps. See my about page. non-work: sailor, scuba diver, Bournemouth live music junkie. See http://bournemouthmusic.wordpress.com
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