The Strongest Structure

Dr Jeffrey Tobias said, ‘big companies are trying to be small companies, and small companies are trying to be big companies.’

What does that mean? For large companies, they want speed, they want to realise return on investment sooner. For small companies, they want capital and amplification.

When you think of a large enterprise, what do you think? Chances are you think: cumbersome process, evergreen politics, and most of all, you think hierarchy.

There is a simple solution to this problem of  big aspiring to be small and nimble.

Re-design your organisation for innovation and change.
Re-design your organisation for quality and speed.

And the blueprint is staring us in the face.

Graphene, the 2010 Nobel Prize winning hexagonal material is stronger than steel, conductive and flexible, and only as thick as an atom. It was isolated in 2004 by Prof Andrew Geim and Prof Kostva Novoselov.

For manufacturing, graphene represents a shift away from laying down layers of heavy materials, the gap between each junction a potential weak link, and a shift towards light flexible meshes that completely tile a space in a structure without any gaps, symmetrically distributing stress and load across the network.

In this hexagonal honeycomb, the internal angle is 120 degrees so three hexagons at a point make a full 360 degrees. And they are joined together by strong covalent bonds: electron pairs shared between atoms. It is this stable sharing of attractive and repulsive forces that gives the bond it’s strength.

Imagine the layers of our heirarchical organisations – like constructions of brick and mortar. For a time the bricks stand stong together as a single unit, then as the ground underneath them groans and shifts the mortar holding the bricks together cracks and the bricks move in oposing directions, as if they had oposing agendas, exposing chasms that weaken the structure as a whole.

Now imagine the strongest organisational structure – hexagonal – six member pods – each with a functional purpose. Decisions are made fast and locally. There is freedom of autonomy. It is a fun place, a safe place and people build relationships that poison politics. It’s felxible, it bends in the wind.

Let’s be real, we are talking about business here, so if you need to restructure, then remove or add pods, not people from linear parallel business units – in doing so you preserve projet/value momentum for the remaining pods.

Commercial analysts at the pod level minimise risk of large scale accounting errors. Each pod responsible for their own financial management and resourcing. Remember too, these are small companies that make up a big one, so cross skilled individuals. Joined at three vertices to the other pods there is intercommunication and a cross pollenation of best of breed process and communities of practice.

Back to business: Speed. This will get you that and I raise you one better, it will also unlock the latent potential in all of your employees, it would expose your intrapraneurs and give you a more efficient use of labour and higher financial returns.

Spotify already have a proven graphene-esque model in their engineering squads.  Their employee satisfaction ratings (94%+) and their speed and quality to market serve to validate their apprach.

I don’t know about you but I want to live and work in this world. Have you seen or worked in models like this?

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