Organizational Structures Support Disruptive Change


If we think about organizational structure as a way to weather the disruptive change technology, automation, and outsourcing will bring to business is the next century, business can develop organizations that are built to weather the coming storm. One new structure that can adapt to rapid change is a triangle working group model, designed to bring the strength of a geodesic dome to business structures.

When Buckminster Fuller developed the model for the geodesic dome, he was developing a structure build on a small number of forms- triangles, mostly, that could sustain pressure from various angles. A geodesic dome can withstand winds, snow loads, earthquakes, because a disruption or pressure on one part is absorbed throughout the unit by transferring the stress along the individual units- the triangles.

A traditional structure for a building and for a business is a top-down linear model. But automation and outsourcing will leave a vacuum in the middle of the structure. Employee models are traditionally work-unit based. A person has a very specific, prescribed job, and they are not allowed to do any work in the company outside their specific job requirements.

Now, picture a work unit of three, charged with overseeing the outsourced finance, payroll, and regulatory compliance departments. Decisions can be made at the unit or recommendations sent upstairs; members of the team can rotate or stay the same; members of individual units can also participate on other teams, such as production or safety, with a new three person work group.

This model gives an employee several unique experiences and skills, and allows them to be able to move knowledgeably into a new area outside of their usual area of expertise. It also keeps employees from becoming stagnant or bored, and allows them to participate in growing a company in a way that engenders engagement and loyalty.

Many employees leave to start their own venture, because they need a seat at the table, the freedom to explore and experiment. Building these unquantifiable variables into the organizational structure, allowing employees to explore and help grow the company, may give a new business a workforce that is agile, experienced, able to rapidly adjust to disruptive change, and loyal to the business.

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