We built our current business world on the premise that it takes a hierarchy of management to get work done. The idea stems from the assembly lines of the Industrial Revolution and is based on the fact that most people used to produce physical ‘stuff’.
People, especially uneducated, unmotivated and bored people, needed to be managed, and there was a limit on how many individuals and activity could be monitored by one manager. Thus was born the work group, process and reports.
As the world changes quickly, that structure is fundamentally still in place. But as more work is done independently and in ways that don’t require physical presence, structure or direct supervision, the hierarchy of the workplace is becoming the biggest barrier to the next generation of productivity.
Large volumes and high velocity of data and the need for very fast analytics are driving the next wave of management and decision making. This is key to how a company like Apple orchestrates everything from the glass screens for the iPhone 5, to the import and export of parts and whole devices to the number of retailers putting the phone out to the public.
The idea of a distinct group that only handles procurement, another that does shipping and receiving and another that manages partner channels is fading. Putting decision making for something that spans the business into an organizational silo makes less sense every day. Apple excels at getting this right and has become very wealthy as a result.
The volume, velocity and variety of data doesn’t fit the hierarchy and boundaries of the physical world. The amount of data won’t lessen…it will increase, so we can accurately say that the organization of the workplace will shift along with it. That’s not an easy thing to do.
Yet another chance for some to understand and adapt, and others to go the way of Kodak.
If you want to understand more, here are a few resources on this topic:
Big Data Dreams: A Wake-up Call by Scot Wheeler
Thrust and Lube by Alistair Croll