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I talked recently about a flattened structure. What does that actually mean and how does it impact decision making? Let’s take a look at an example.
An individual finds an opportunity to greatly improve the service to a a client area. It will require either changes to an existing system or a new system to be created. How do they need to go about getting this system created?
- The individual talks to their manager who agrees that it is a good idea.
- The manager talks to their boss and, with the appropriate documentation, they think that it’s a good idea.
- The boss approaches his boss, we shall call him Super Boss and after a brief chat the Super Boss also agrees that it is a good idea.
- The Super Boss has a scheduled meeting with the Head Honcho who also agrees that it is worthwhile.
- The Head Honcho has their scheduled meeting with the other Head Honchos and everyone agrees that this would enhance service to our clients.
- The request is then brought up to the Super Boss Council (one of who may have already approved the request) and the Super Boss council is convinced that it is a good solution
- The Super Boss Council then brings it up to the IT Leadership committee to approve the request and it gets approval to proceed
This structure is, to be honest, too complex to be sustainable in the long term. By the time it gets approved the individual who brought it forth in the first place may no longer be with the organization. The business requirement may have changed. The clients may have moved on to a different solution. There are a variety of reasons why the longer the delay, the longer the process, the less likely we are to create meaningful business value. The following picture sums up the impact of this sort of structure.
In order to meet the increasing demands of clients businesses need to respond more quickly. They need to be able to seize an opportunity when that opportunity presents itself, not five, ten, fifteen months/years later. Blockbuster failed to heed the writing on the digital wall and by the time they created a digital video offering they were left out in the cold. Kodak, at one time the biggest consumer of silver in the world, reacted too small and too late to the digital market and they are now just a shell of their former self. For the most part governments have reacted too late to the rapid rise of smartphones and mobile connected users and appear as laggards or even technically inept.
Agility is key, not only in the development of new assets, but in the process that surround those assets. From procurement to implementation, the ability of an organization to respond to change is limited by how fast decisions can be made. In the above scenario decisions are made in a hierarchical model that is the antithesis of agility.