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Future Organizations

May 24, 2009
Red 2 × 4 LEGO brick from the LDraw parts libr...
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Amidst the gazillion thoughts and discussions this economic downturn has signalled, thought I’d put up mine too.

This situation has made it amply clear that companies need to have the ability to respond with lightning rapidity. They need to be able to scale up or down, lay off or on, speed up or slow down, rapidly.

So I was wondering how do you do that, and somehow I began to think about Lego blocks. Anyone who has played with them knows that whether you have 50 blocks in your box or 500 or 5000, the possibilities are endless. You can make a house with 50, 500 or 5000 blocks.

And my proposal is a Lego company. How would such a company be formed? By smaller companies which are the blocks.

So there would be HR blocks, Supply Chain blocks, Sales Blocks, Manufacturing blocks etc. And each of these would be service providers.

Supply chain diagram black arrow - flow of mat...
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The company (i.e. the one with said idea or product or service) would have a tiny core team which would put together the blocks and manage that they functioned right. Scaling up blocks when business picked up, scaling down when it slowed down.

Needless to say, the skillsets required would be very different from a regular organization!

Lego model-maker Jona Markgraf (L) and pupils ...

The blocks too, would not be permanently staffed because their success would equally depend on the ability to scale up or down the size of blocks. So it’s entirely possible that permanent staffing will die down, and we’ll all be interim hires brought on when things are good, and off work when they’re not.The parallel that comes to mind is farming. Where the core is the landowner and a skeleton staff, and during sowing and reaping season a lot of interim/temp jobs come up for which there are people who are ready and accustomed to that way of life.

If this happens, I see that employment will become floating, employee populations will move to the fastest growing economies because those are the ones that will have jobs.

Is the world turning full circle? Are we going to see the return of the nomadic way of life? From settlers to hu

September 11th 2008 - It's not great art unles...
Image by Stephen Poff via Flickr

nters?

Would love to know what you think! Please comment, leave your thoughts and add value to this discussion!

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2009 10:36 pm

    An extreme thought – whilst something that is a reality, the probability of it being accepted openly is where the problem lies. The number of companies/organizations/people actually understanding & accepting this is where it gets stuck. The SME who actually should be experimenting with such, do not whereas, others think of & by the time execution is slated to happen, the change manager loses interest for circumstances beyond his control.

    Factors to make this happen is the key Communication Block, which is deficient in most Indian organizations & another sharing of information which is the biggest stumbling block:)

    But yes, as interim assignments start being a reality, India shall move to the Blocks or similar kind of adjustments.

  2. June 4, 2009 9:02 am

    Excellent thoughts ….. I am sure they will soon be a reality.
    Man started off as a CRAFTSMAN (skilled in one or multiple areas)and worked from home then we wanted ECONOMIES OF SCALE and hence built factories to bring the craftsmen to what we call “WORK” and now gradually we will encourage knowledge workers to become craftsmen (skilled in one or multiple areas).

    As usual, its a full circle.

    The idea of rewards similar to Frequent Flyer program is a fantastic idea.

  3. K. A. S. Nagpal permalink
    June 3, 2009 2:11 pm

    More often than not, businesses prefer to choose complex solutions to complex problems. Or worse, complex solutions to simple problems.

    The Difference between FOCUSING on PROBLEMS and FOCUSING on SOLUTIONS.

    Case # 1 :When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens would not work at zero gravity (ink will not flow down to the writing surface).

    Solution # 1 :To solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.

    Solution # 2 : And what did the Russians do…?? They used a pencil.

    Case # 2 :One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan ‘s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soapbox that was empty.

    Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly Line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty.

    Management asked its engineers to solve the problem.

    Solution # 1: Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soapboxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent a whoopee amount to do so.

    Solution # 2 : But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with another solution.

    He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soapbox passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

    Moral

    · Always look for simple solutions.
    · Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems.
    · Always focus on solutions & not on problems.

    It is sad that the earlier “loyalty” between employers and employees is fast vanishing in this fast paced world. Those days when chains of generations worked in the same organisation are lost far into the past. Is this good? Is this bad? I don’t know…

  4. Suparna D Ghose permalink
    May 25, 2009 3:41 pm

    I agree potentially a solution during uncertain times. A lot of what you are suggesting is already beginning too happen, with Gen Y workers increasingly moving towards globally mobile, boundaryless careers.
    Sadly however if there is a seismic shift and the lego phenomenon indeed becomes mainstream, it could potentially spell the end of employee engagement, organisational citizenship behaviour and even corporate identity!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      May 27, 2009 10:09 am

      “if there is a seismic shift and the lego phenomenon indeed becomes mainstream, it could potentially spell the end of employee engagement, organisational citizenship behaviour and even corporate identity!”
      That’s an interesting observation which I had missed. Thanks for putting it up Suparna! I agree, however, the leading thought this triggered is that instead of citizenship behaviours, there will be tenancy behaviours, organizations will have to have even higher focus on ensuring eSat because it will be critical to their ability to attract a temp workforce which is more empowered to choose where it would want to work.

      So engagement and eSat would hold even more relevance and we might then need to cross-pollinate from the hospitality industry on how it measures tenant satisfaction, and what measures they take in order to keep people coming back.

      Equally, something like a frequent flyer program, so for people who we’d like to keep loyal to us, we would institute tiered reward systems! Very interesting thoughts you triggered, thanks once again!

  5. prameela permalink
    May 25, 2009 4:54 am

    I think companies are already moving in this direction – atleast at the lowers levels in the organization where specialization is not necessary and capabilities can be scaled up and down with great speed

    And the whole outsourcing industry is based on this approach – retain whats core and let someone else handle your context so that you can scale that part of your business up and down to accomodate your business cycles and volatality

    What you are suggesting is the next level of maturity in organizational structures where we begin to see plug-and-play functions, teams and skills. Key will be multi-skilling of resources (technology, domain and services) to be able to share a pool of resources optimally across such blocks

    Interesting perspective and am sure some companies somewhere are surely aligning to this evolved state

  6. xcogitate permalink
    May 24, 2009 5:25 pm

    Chief! the whole move towards temp staffing seems to be headed in the direction your blog is taking. Building flexible throughput capability through outsourcing and temp staffing. What this could also lead to is a lot more contracting of specialized talent who will work with multiple companies as SMEs and consultants.

    Maybe this is an evolution that India will see this decade … into the next. I am told that each of the temping companies have thousands of employees working with them rightnow and this number is growing. Interesting trend to watch out!

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