As I mentioned in “How Plugged In Are You?” Nilofer Merchant had a very interesting blog post that was part of a series about the Social Era, which tries to answer the overall question: “If you were going to design an organization from scratch today, what would you design for?” Nilofer’s answer is nimblesness. Nilofer said that organizations today need to be designed for speed, that means that everything is done quickly and effectively, and for that everyone needs to know their role perfectly. For this, Nilofer suggests staffing with “concentric circles.”
Basically, the core staff or management are the centre of production for the company, and these core staff members (who number in the single digits) hire the next rung of staff members, keeping the teams small to maximize their effectiveness. This concept of concentric circles does away with the idea of hierarchy and instead focuses on resizing as needed to get the right amount of talent, creativity and new ideas flowing between the teams. This is an idea that will have a lot of impact on your company, summarized in this rather wonderful quote from Nilofer:
When you have shared purpose, it doesn’t matter how many people work “in the company” and how many work “with” the company or how many are serving as an army of volunteers who want to advance the mission. What will it look like to lead an organization when only 5% of talent affecting output is directly on payroll, and others come and go? Organizations will not need to be big to have a big impact. But they will need an extremely clear purpose, and shared, decentralized power throughout. When a clear purpose is coupled with shared power, people can self-organize to reach the goal.”
For more ideas, go and check out Nilofer Merchant’s blog post and the series it is associated with. In order to make an impact these days, businesses don’t need to be big, they need to be savvy, quick on their feet; they need to be nimble.