In the first instalment we explored what the digitalisation effect means for the nature of the work we will do in the future . Now let’s look at how we will organise ourselves to do it.
I have always enjoyed the differences between the static org structures and workflows documented by an organisation and the shifting, dynamic, reality of how work actually gets done.
This influx of available data provided by the internet has resulted in consumer demand and employee needs becoming more fluid. Similarly, the low cost of cloud computing is making it easier for small organisations to scale quickly and disrupt established players. For these reasons, building agility into the operating model of an organisation is key.
As organisations start to experiment, we are seeing a set of hyper agile operating models that are beginning to establish themselves. 1) the Hollywood model, 2) the platform model, 3) Microwork and 4) Holacracy.
The Hollywood Model
This is a ‘it is what it says on the tin’ moment. Unsurprisingly, The Hollywood Model is an operating model that takes the idea of a film production in the studios of Hollywood and applies it to large organisations. Teams are assembled with the purpose of working for a short period of time on a designated task. Ad-hoc teams carry out projects that can be large and complex, requiring many people with complementary skills. These projects tend to come together quickly and have strict deadlines; once the task is completed, the team then disbands.
Holacracy focuses on distributed authority, transparent rules and encouraging rapid interactions3. In this operating model type the power is removed from individual human beings and instead re-assigned to clear job roles. Regular rotation through all job roles is encouraged, so one day you could be a Systems Engineer and the next day you could become Project Manager. This drives a holistic view of the organisation and continuous development for employees. In addition, decisions in this model are made locally, eliminating the need for escalations and micromanagement.
Probably the most celebrated operating model of modern times is the platform model favoured by the tech giants of eBay, Airbnb and Uber. Here the organisation attracts both supply and demand to a platform and takes a small cut from one or both sides.
The platform model tends to drive agility, open up larger customer bases and builds resilience against changing markets. For these reasons, businesses big and small are thinking about what it would take to reinvent themselves as a platform.
Microwork relies on the concept that people sign up to bite-sized computer-like tasks, such as translating pages of a book or creating content for a website, in exchange for small amounts of money or in some cases entirely for free2. This concept equates to a business outsourcing the entirety of business processes to external resources that are often not connected or even personally known to the organisation. Microwork heavily relies on technology to connect the business with remote Microworkers. It allows businesses to reach experts at low cost. Clarity provides an interesting example for how this model could be deployed within the consulting industry.
Operating model shifts are often synonymous with huge upheaval, but they don’t need to be. We would advocate a test and learn approach with small pilots in parts of the organisation to better contextualise the benefits of these models.