In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explores the impact of globalization on economics, business and competitive marketplaces. It’s a worthwhile read that has been reviewed by many bloggers - so I won’t here. In the book, Friedman outline’s the 10 drivers of flattening and the more recent convergence of these flatteners driving even more rapid change in the industry.
This whole line of thinking has had me thinking about issues of governance, decision making and innovation velocity. The principles of a flat world can give you strategic advantage, but "flat companies" will WIN in the flat world.
So, what are the signs of an organization that is not flat?
- How many people between the "front line" and the CEO (span of control and org depth)?
- How close are executives to customer listening systems - and how accountable are they held for the results?
- How difficult is cross functional collaboration? (test: "us or them" speak vs "we" speak)
- How fast (if at all) do ideas flow from the front line to the decision makers (CXOs)?
- How many people need to be in a room to make a decision?
- How quickly can you respond to competitive pressures and or changes in the marketplace?
I’m sure this is not comprehensive and would love to see you add to the list.
Keep in mind, a flat organization is not a democracy - success is still dependent on strong and empowered leadership. I think the question is how quickly and accurately leaders are provided with the inputs necessary to make decisions. And once made, how efficiently do those decisions flow back out and turn into action at the front line.
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