Greetings. Many companies I work with express a clear desire to create "flatter" organizations that "empower" their employees and push decision-making down to the lowest possible level. It is an admirable pursuit that is fraught with challenges and powerful opportunities. On the plus side, it reduces the time required and cost of decisions and moves decision-making closer to where the action is. It also has the potential to engage employees in new ways by giving them a much bigger stake in the success of the business. This in turn should lead to greater innovation and initiative as employees seek to solve problems, create more value and connect more directly with their internal and external customers and partners in new and better ways.
On the challenge side, it requires us to have the right cast of characters in place and to all be aligned around a set of values and operating principles that support our mutual success. It requires us to let go, butt out and give people the freedom to be brilliant and also make mistakes.
So it should come as no surprise that even the best intentioned companies rarely end up being very flat. That's why Gary Hamel's article titled "First Let's Fire all the Managers," in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review should warrant your interest. Because it profiles Morning Star, the world's leading processor of tomatoes, and a company where "no one has a boss," "employees negotiate responsibilities with their peers," "everyone can spend the company's money," "each employee is responsible for acquiring the tools needed to do his or her job," "there are no titles and no promotions," "compensation decisions are peer-based." And where everybody creates, and reports to, their own personal mission statement.
A company in which 400 full-time employees generate $700 million in annual revenues.
And a company that will either excite you to the max or frighten you to death whenever you imagine the possibility of creating a flatter organization.
We win in business and in life when we unlock the genius in everyone. And when we figure out the right organizational structure to make it happen.