Blending Organizational Structures For Results

The difference between problem solving and process execution is significant, each benefiting from a specific approach to organizing the workforce.  Here Bill Shinskey explores the notion of blending organizational structure to improve corporate results, including a description of when to employ each structure.

In the course of our daily work activities, we usually accept the existing organization structures as givens and conduct our business consistent within those structures, their norms and nuances – and often within the limitations imposed by them.

Most of our businesses function within the good, old fashioned bureaucratic model which has served us so well for over a century. It is the mass production model we associate with such folks as Henry Ford, herein referred to the right side up pyramid. The model is appropriate for many situations from manufacturing to service. The emphasis is on standardization”. Figure out the right way to do something and make sure we do it that way all the time.

In contrast, figuring out the right way to do something requires a different approach and a different organizational model. Focus is on “innovation” and is represented by the inverted pyramid. The structure itself is conducive to developing creative solutions to complex problems. Most critical is the flexible and fluid leadership exerted, which often moves toward an individual with a specific expertise rather than job title or formal role. Effective business teams tend to function within this type of “unstructured” structure when the situation at hand demands creativity.

Businesses today have to perform in both productive and creative ways, almost simultaneously, as they respond to an ever changing environment. This need argues for utilizing both of the above organizational structures depending upon the demands of the situation. Mass production; be it in widgets or service requires standardization. New solutions to complex or chronic problems demand innovation. A single structure does not do well attempting to serve two masters.
Field experience suggests that success comes with the ability to integrate the best features of both structures. When it is time to make product, we follow standardized work processes and get the job done. When solutions to tough problems are required, we meet in teams – the very best ones are cross-functional. Blending the two together follows this model:

  • [Right Side Up Pyramid] Feeds complex problems to [Inverted Pyramid] which develops solutions
  • [Inverted Pyramid] Feeds solutions back to [Right Side Up Pyramid] which standardizes the solutions

Thus, the two structures continually work together based upon addressing the unique needs of specific situations.

120129 Blending Organizational Structures for Results
Contributing authors Bill Shinskey and Kirk Wiley

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