Horizontal, the New Vertical
Henry Ford may be best known for creating the assembly line, but did you know he also created the weekend. Ford realized his workers needed the free time in order to use and enjoy their new automobile. Along with giving them Saturday off he also doubled their wages so they could afford their new Ford. Of course they could have any color they wanted as long as it was black!
Along came Alfred P. Sloan with GM and the choice of color, style and various versions of the new four wheel automobile. By providing choice GM took a huge chunk of business away from Ford. Sloan also created managerial capitalism along with the C suite and many layers of management necessary to operate such large, diverse operations of an automobile manufacturer. We still see large bureaucratic organizations dominating the financial services, insurances, banking and other long established status quo organizations of today.
In 2005 Thomas L. Friedman wrote, The World is Flat. In it he describes the flattening of organizations worldwide with the result of placing technology into the hands of the common worker to influence their small part of the world. This has resulted in whole industries shifting toward virtual workers and the outsourcing of local labor to a hire out for bid or for more permanent solutions.
Some examples we have used are Copy talk – digital recording dictation, 99Designs – basic graphic design, Create Space – self publishing, cloud server farms – outsourced storage and retrieval, Skype, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts for video teleconferencing, meeting and recording. These services are delivered all over the globe.
I know an attorney who has a dozen lawyers working for him from around the world. He has one full time assistant in his office. When he is sleeping, his “staff” is working. When he shows up for work in the morning there are completed jobs ready for his review. His organization works 24/7 in remote locations of their choosing.
The Hollywood model is a great horizontal model. Each movie production involves the gathering of directors, actors, costume designers, carpenters and screen writers to name a few. They collaborate on a film sometime in the same location at the same time and other times from various locations from around the world. The editors finish up, the film is produced, marketed and sold to theaters. One to two years from start to finish.
You should now be looking for project leaders not managers. Project leaders can take any area of an organization and act like movie producers to see a project from inception to completion. The world is moving very rapidly. Change must take place quickly, efficiently and with the least interruption to the body economic.
Organizations no longer need people to manage things. Technology is rapidly doing away with shuffling paper around the desk or placing the paper monkey in someone else’s in box. The horizontal model places accountability and responsibility clearly in the hands of the line worker on Ford’s assembly line.
Look for the project leaders in your organization. Find the person who takes ownership of their position. And for Pete’s sake authorize your workers to hire worldwide virtual assistants! Take the monkey work out of the office and empower the worker to use their noggin instead of only their brawn. This is where the vertical becomes the new horizontal.
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