Radically Flattened Org Structures

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Radically Flattened Org Structures

Polly LaBarre in her MIX blog reports on the incredibly flat management structure at Morning Star, a highly successful major American food grower and processor.  All employees in the company develop and sign a Colleague Letter of Understanding (CLOU) in which each person defines their personal job outline and how it relates to the organizational mission, as well as how their specific job links to that of their colleagues.  The online CLOU’s are available for all to see and employees update them frequently, providing a living organizational chart and map of how the company is deploying real resources. Employees are responsible to each other, and each employee knows exactly what that relationship entails.

Steve Denning, who also reported on Morning Star and Valve (I blogged about Valve last week) updates this discussion with Sun Hydraulics, a manufacturing company with 700 employees and $200 million in annual sales.  Kevin Meyer researched the company and describes his visit:

  • No org chart
  • No job titles or description
  • No performance criteria
  • No bonuses
  • No regularly scheduled meetings
  • No approval levels for spending
  • No goals
  • No offices or high-walled cubicles

He describes one absolute key to their success with this model: hiring right. “By spending a lot of time hiring the right kind of collaborative idea-generating individual who doesn’t need to be told what to do.”

That sounds a lot like many of our best teachers.

These examples of Management 2.0 point out how tightly our schools are bound to the control-based mandates of Management 1.0.  Yet our employees and knowledge-based work are much more akin to some of the companies that have successfully developed a completely new approach to management and decision-making.  Our well-educated, creative, dynamic workforce of teachers should, in principle, respond far better to a flat, open source, buzzing, collaborative, risk-friendly dynamics than to the controlled, vertical, goal-and-assessment burdened mantras of Management 1.0.

The first step for schools to take advantage of these ideas will be to significantly increase distributed leadership and responsibility.  Our schools are far too dependent on top leaders that we want to act like Old Testament visionaries leading us to the Promised Land.  That model is broken; it does not mesh well with the science of innovation.  Heads of school need to push decisions down and out, allow for and embrace failure, hire independent thinkers, and build professional development programs that enhance self-reliance, process management, and real-time collegial collaboration.  Does this have to happen overnight?  Of course not.  This is evolution, not revolution.  But over time we have to leverage the two biggest assets that schools have to offer: incredibly dedicated and talented people, and a rich respect for collaboration and consensus.

Why do we need this change?  Simple; the rate of change in the world around us is too fast for traditional models of innovation to take effect.  The temperature in the pond is changing too quickly for purely reactive adaptations.  This significant change in how our schools are structured will be a proactive response to these environmental stress factors, allowing us to match our rate of adaptability with the rate of change of challenges we need to meet.

By | 2012-04-30T19:01:11+00:00 April 30th, 2012|Finance and Operations, Innovation in Education|0 Comments

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