expressed opinion entrepreneur Contributors are themselves.
People entering the workforce today want to do things differently, and as multigenerational employers, it’s critical that we figure out how to support each generation quickly. The new generation wants more autonomy, and the reality is that there are entrepreneurs at every level of every size company. Still, traditional bureaucracies hold them back until they rise to positions of influence.
When it comes to building your organization—merging with another company or going into a startup and setting out to build it from the ground up—you have more options than you would with a traditional top-down structure. In our experience, there are better ways to organize to bring out the best in everyone and drive the company forward. But fair warning: This model isn’t just changing the seats — it’s a complete redesign of the bus.
Related: How Adhocracy Can Stimulate Startup Growth
Despotism as we see it
Contrary to traditional, bureaucratic business models, ad hoc organizations are flexible and adaptable organizational structures that form groups for specific purposes when necessary. Adhocracy’s ad hoc problem-solving working groups create a business environment more conducive to innovation.
In our “adhocracy”, non-hierarchical business units operate independently of their customer portfolios, but at the end of the day, they are still part of our organization. Within each business unit, there are specific leadership roles: our “executive team” – an operations person, a finance person, a technology person and a business development person. No different from the C-suite, each brings their expertise to support the business units as part of a collaborative leadership team. We mean support — it’s not an old-fashioned top-down structure.
Our constellation-named business units are all supported by a platform: “Hubble” – the brain of the ecosystem. If I want to bring a technical team into a business unit team, we can use Hubble to identify the right people, their location, time zone, and rate. We can also use it to source specific expertise for a new project, or to move someone onto a team that needs it.
Related: 5 Tips to Consider When Designing (or Redesigning) Your Organizational Structure
Encouraging agency and entrepreneurship
The adhocracy model emphasizes leadership—encouraging more people at different levels throughout the company to lead. The ability to decompose and recombine provides organizational fluidity. Teams can identify problems to solve and act quickly, leading to more and greater efficiency.
Each business unit is free to design what they lead and how they want to run it. They control their growth to meet project needs, which is good for the greater development of the company. They see how their efforts can positively impact the company, resulting in a greater sense of ownership, camaraderie, and ultimately, less turnover. It also promotes healthy competition: who will be bigger or better in pursuit of our goals? When more people feel empowered to try and make a difference, more people will step up and try.
Related: Building a Structure for Organizational Growth
take our advice
This model empowers everyone to step up, be a leader and drive the growth of their department and company. People can broaden their experience within a company, making them more likely to stay rather than seek other opportunities elsewhere. The products we build for our customers make them better and make us better. We won’t stop anyone.
But this is not a model for an organization wishing to stagnate; you must have the following recipes for it to work.
1) Desire for radical change
To drive the company-wide mindset shift needed for this model to succeed requires a group of committed believers at the C-suite level, all-in on a radical shift away from typical organizational structures. It cannot be achieved with a team alone. In our company, we have transitioned from an orderly organization to one that allows individual business units to serve their customers. We even encourage our clients to make this shift when they restructure, because we see how it benefits them, but they realize it needs to change radically.
2) Find the right people and rethink their roles.
Within the organization, find back-office people who can shift this mindset and position them to support these teams. Our executive team makes things happen in our company, so the rest of us support what they need. My role in HR has changed to be more proactive and engaging with these leadership teams as a strategic growth partner. Look for individuals with an innate ability to think like a leader, solve complex problems and seek out learning opportunities.
3) Be flexible.
Change happens all the time: mergers, additions, transfers, expanding portfolios and exploring new industries. Teams can scale to the size they need to take on any project. We’ve split up the business units. We have business units joining. We’ve had business units give birth to baby business units. We accept that liquidity — if it makes sense for the executive team, we’re all for it.
4) Avoid the threat of silos
These business units may grow larger at some point, making preventing silos more difficult. Siled companies cut off the fluid cross-communication needed to support a healthy autocratic model, so we must be careful not to allow them to form. If you follow Dunbar’s theory, then 300 is a critical number. If you get bigger, becoming more isolated becomes inevitable. Consider these numbers to cap the size of individual groups, but give them the flexibility to form alliances and grow.
At my company, we devour new books on great business theory, absorb it, and run on what is most likely to work for us. It keeps us improving. If a better, more mature structured approach exists, we’ll look at it critically to see if it’s worth it. For the most part, changes are going to happen anyway, so we might as well anticipate that. Right now, the model puts us in the best position to do that.
Related: Breaking down silos and building cross-communication