13th August 2007

The World is Flat - your company isn’t. Uh oh…

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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This entry was posted on Monday, August 13th, 2007 at 9:28 pm and is filed under General Community Discussion, Voice of Customer, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities, web 2.0. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 4 responses to “The World is Flat - your company isn’t. Uh oh…”

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  1. 1 On August 14th, 2007, Moshe Maeir said:

    One of the best ways to flatten your organization is to use our Flat Planet Phone System !

  2. 2 On August 14th, 2007, Chuck said:

    Oh, the temptation!
    I’ll try to be good.

    I have been at some decent sized companies (at least one of which you’d know right away) and I have seen a lot of dysfunction and “head down, CYA, just protect yourself” behavior that always saddened me and made me wonder why people weren’t motivated to act in the best interests of the company and more importantly - its customers.

    Frankly, a lot of incentive in a LOT of Corporate America is for the good of the Fiefdom and Silo vs the good of the company.

    In a flat company, I’d imagine bonuses would be focused responsively and flexibly on the customer’s needs (if awarded at all) - but I haven’t been fortunate to see that a lot yet in my often Dilbertesque career…

    Still hoping.

  3. 3 On August 14th, 2007, Ryan said:

    Take it a step further and you’re into wiki land. “The Starfish and the Spider” is an interesting read and compares dynamics between decentralized units and centralized traditional corporate hierarchies. The takeaway is that the decentralized organizations require a “catalyst” leader whose talents/traits are much different than a traditional CEO or management professional. You need leaders who can inspire and then step back and LET GO. A rare breed in the business world, especially when money is at stake.

  4. 4 On November 16th, 2007, The Age of Individualism… : Community Group Therapy said:

    […] change management where we discussed what the indicators of a "flat company" might be (related recent post).  The more we discussed, the more it seemed we were discussing a new business age…what […]

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