From freelancers to firms, from coworking spaces to corporations, we ’ re seeing a shift in how people work together: a shift from centralized hierarchies to decentralized, self-organizing “ adhocracies. ” People are finding that digital and mobile technologies can help them to organize themselves and their projects more loosely and rapidly, and that means they can keep small and flexible, scale up when necessary, and link up with other specialists to swarm big projects. These loosely organized, nimble organizations enjoy advantages – but they also face difficulties and pitfalls. In this presentation, I ’ ll discuss six key characteristics that make loose organizations work: how they hold together, function, and build links with each other. I ’ ll discuss their advantages and pitfalls. And I ’ ll illustrate these principles with case studies of adhocracies in Austin.
I ’ m an associate professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas, Austin. My research involves conducting workplace studies: going into a workplace, observing people as they work and interact, interviewing them, gathering copies of the texts and tools they use, and building a comprehensive picture of how they circulate information. I ’ ve written two books (above) and several articles about these studies. Currently, I ’ m interested in how changes in technology and in organizations have been changing how people produce and circulate knowledge in loose organizations. I ’ ve been examining nimble organizations in Austin.
Let ’ s think in broad strokes. Futurist Alvin Toffler argued in 1980 that we have gone through three “ waves ” of major change in human history. Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179136302/ Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179077779/ in/photostream/ CC, Rod McLatchy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ rodbotic/2479178443/
In the first wave, we became an agricultural society and for millennia most of our work was agricultural. Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179136302/
In the 18th century, we began the second wave, the Industrial Revolution, and until the mid-1900s industrial work dominated. Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179077779/ in/photostream/
But, Toffler argued, since the mid-1900s we have been in the third wave: we have become a knowledge society and the most influential work is knowledge work. Remember, these are broad generalizations, but they ’ re still useful for thinking through some of the changes we ’ ve seen. Because we certainly have seen changes. Knowledge work has taken an increasingly large share of the developed world's economy in the last century. By 1980, the information sector grew to 46.6% (Beniger). By 1994, traditional (agricultural and industrial) work has shrunk to only a sixth or an eighth of the workforce - the rest of the workforce is engaged in service and knowledge work (Drucker 1994, p.6). CC, Rod McLatchy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ rodbotic/2479178443/
But these changes aren ’ t all. Each form of work has its own logic and form of organization. To get agricultural work done, you have to establish hierarchies that direct labor on a mass scale. To get industrial work done, you have to create and leverage markets. To facilitate knowledge work, it helps to establish networked forms of organization: relatively independent workers in fast-changing, recombinant organizations.
For instance, he predicted in 1970 that work would be reorganized from departments to projects, attacked by transient teams of specialists: knowledge workers, people whose job was to produce and analyze knowledge rather than to grow or make things. In these loose organizations - these “ adhocracies ” - cross-functional teams change in composition and their leadership shifts during different stages and different projects. Each unique project requires a unique set of specialists.
In such adhocracies, knowledge isn ’ t pinned down in a specific field or factory. Although knowledge work affects those too: farmers use GPS and inventory control databases now, while factories are reengineering processes and sharing information electronically. Even in the more traditional kinds of work, they ’ re feeling the ripples of these new capabilities. Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179136302/ Public domain, Library of Congress, http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2179077779/ in/photostream/ CC, Rod McLatchy, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ rodbotic/2479178443/
Peter Drucker didn ’ t use the term “ adhocracies, ” but he was familiar with the trend of specialists who focused on knowledge work. He argued in 1993 that if we ’ re to enable those workers to work most effectively, we need to help them apply knowledge to knowledge - that is, to be better able to manage and support their own processes. Examples might include the project management systems and collaborative tools that emerged throughout the first decade of this century. But they also involve three very important tools that we now take for granted:
Pervasive and cheap Internet connections delivered through independent telecommunications companies ... powerful mobile computers, affordable to individuals ... and mobile telecommunications, inexpensive enough that even tweens could afford them. These three technologies have suddenly created new opportunities for adhocracies. Public domain, OCal, http://www.clker.com/cliparts/2/4/e/2/120818528589 6971921coredump_Glassy_WiFi_symbol.svg.hi.png CC, Ryan Jones (ichibod), http://www.flickr.com/photos/ichibod/2073251155/ Public domain, http://www.pdclipart.org/albums/Telephone_and_Cell/mobile_phone_22.png
MOBILITY. They ’ ve allowed people to work in “ third spaces ” : coffee shops, libraries, parks, hotel lobbies, McDonald ’ s, etc. : CC, Kevin Fox (kfury), http://www.flickr.com/photos/person/107899274/
SCALE. They ’ ve opened up telecommuting and mobile work to small businesses, not just big business: freelancers, partnerships, contractors. They ’ ve enabled virtualized organizations. And they ’ ve accelerated the transition to project-oriented work - and adhocracies. In fact, small businesses have proliferated in part because big business is shedding non-core jobs to the flexhire market, the mediated services market, the dependent contractors market, and the independent contractors market (Burton-Jones p.58). If you ’ re a computer manufacturer, for instance, do you really want to manage your own custodians, marketing people, accountants, and graphic designers? Or do you want to farm these specialized noncore functions out to experts? Farming them out means that you can concentrate on your own specialty - and so can the people you hire to take care of the noncore work, often more nimbly and with a lighter footprint.
So this brings us to FRAGMENTATION. More work can be outsourced. Increasingly, companies retain their core functions, but they contract other jobs. So all these changes, and others, encourage and support adhocracies, in which specialists come together for a specific project, team up to fulfill it, then disperse until the next job. These teams are transient, unstable, and continually reconfigured, whether they ’ re inside or outside a given company. Let me tell you about three case studies, all in Austin.
To get a sense of these employment trends, consider the growth of nonemployer firms (firms that have no employees, earn receipts over $1000, and are subject to federal income taxes). The number of these firms has increased 21% in the US from 2002-2008 - and by 41% in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area during the same period. They have particularly increased in number and receipts in the information sector, which includes “ (a) producing and distributing information and cultural products, (b) providing the means to transmit or distribute these products as well as data or communications, and (c) processing data ” (US Census Bureau 2011a). Nonemployer firms in the information sector have grown remarkably in number (64% in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area vs. 32% in the US) and in receipts (105% in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area vs. 46% in the US) (US Census Bureau 2011b). These changes all far outpace the population change in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area (22.2%) and the US (5.8%) during the same period (US Census Bureau 2011c). More people are working alone, especially in Austin.
These are the independent contractors who are scooping up many of the noncore jobs I discussed earlier - the proliferating small businesses that specialize in jobs and can attack them more nimbly than in-house teams can.
So the result is that these nimble adhocracies are ascendant - inside, outside, and between organizations. In part, that ’ s because they are physically nimble - mobile. They are rapidly scalable, pulling together specialists at a moment ’ s notice. And they ’ re fragmented, representing different sets of expertise and working across them to provide insights that one specialist, one field or discipline, can ’ t. They ’ re like ninjas, swarming a project, attacking it, then dispersing at the end. PS, I don ’ t think this person is a real ninja. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thotmeglynn/4511922317/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Let ’ s look at three examples from Austin: Lone Wolves: How Adhocracies Work Inside Organizations Nonemployee Firms: How Adhocracies Work Outside Organizations Coworking: How Adhocracies Form Between Organizations
Case 1: The case of “ Semoptco. ” How do adhocracies work inside a nimble organization? To find out, I studied the work of search engine optimization specialists at a web marketing company.
What ’ s SEO? The definition is above. When people want information, they increasingly turn to Google and other search engines to get it. “ White hat ” SEO is a way to identify people ’ s queries and use legitimate techniques to make your site rank high in the search results. “ Black hat ” SEO, aka “ snake oil, ” has the same goal but uses improper techniques.
For example, say you want to plan a trip to Disneyland, so you Google “ hotels near disneyland ” . You probably won ’ t click through more than a couple of pages of results. So businesses want to promote their sites to the top of the search results. And you, the customer, want the most relevant results. Everyone wins!
But SEO is sometimes associated with “ snake oil, ” underhanded tricks such as hiding white text on a white background. These are improper, and for the most egregious tricks, search engines will de-list the site - the death penalty for a website. See the story on this slide. Semoptco doesn ’ t use “ snake oil ” techniques.
So what does it do? Basically, you have a pool of SEO specialists and a smaller number of account managers. When a new customer comes in, a 2 or 3 person team is assigned. For launch, they follow a four-week set of basic milestones. Then they go into maintenance mode: the SEO specialists work as “ lone wolves ” to improve SEO and to continue setting goals. But here ’ s the thing. In this industry, things literally change every day. Search engines tweak their ranking algorithms, other sites attract links, news items can roil the results. And SEO specialists don ’ t get a formal education. How do they get this work done?
Bear in mind that SEO is a customized service within a fast-changing space. Writing about Internet businesses, Manuel Castells emphasizes these characteristics of innovation, customization, and fast-paced production. And so does Stacy, the account manager quoted here. So Semoptco had to organize adhocratic teams to execute flexibly, to customize, and to innovate. It did that with loosely organized teams - lots of them.
Project teams, consisting of an account manager and 1-2 specialists.
Apprenticeship teams, in which more experienced people mentored less experienced ones within their departments. These were not about commanding or assigning, these were about showing people the ropes. Halfway through my study, SEO apprenticeship teams were replaced by ...
Support teams, which focused on formally coordinating the work of SEO specialists. A senior specialist would coordinate with and mentor junior specialists - but coordination didn ’ t mean control, because the senior specialist did not function as a manager.
Then we have Functional teams: all people within each department. Departments maintained contact and shared general knowledge, such as new techniques, challenges, and tools they discovered. They told each other how the landscape of SEO changed.
Values teams were teams drawn across all departments to enact three general values of the company. They pulled people out of their specialties and put their general qualities to work on different company-wide challenges.
Finally, the Taco club: Otherwise unassociated people from different departments met on Wednesdays to eat breakfast tacos together - and to get to know each other.
These many teams or networks formed an aggregate network in which everyone knew everyone else and a little about their specialties or capabilities. They functioned in a nonsupervisory context, overlaying the existing department-based supervisory hierarchy. By enabling workers to form new associations on the fly, the aggregate networks allowed for flexible structures and loose organizations within the company. It ’ s like an incubator for adhocracies.
But wait, there ’ s more. Since specialists had to constantly customize their customers ’ websites for different searches, they sometimes had to draw on resources outside the company to generate the best solution. For instance, Daria was working with a team that was trying to optimize a medical site aimed at doctors. What keywords would this kind of client search for? Daria didn ’ t know, but she knew how to find out: By probing her personal networks OUTSIDE the organization.
And that brings us to our second case. How do adhocracies work outside an existing organization? The three technologies that make adhocracies mobile, scalable, and fragmented - mobile computers such as laptops, widespread Internet access, and mobile phones - also enable a small business to acquire the capabilities of a much larger one with very few resources. These NEFs pick up those noncore jobs that big companies are shedding. But they have to perform a balancing act: they have to be able to scale up to handle these noncore jobs, which can be big, without losing the agility that they have gained from being NEFs. Let ’ s illustrate from a study I conducted a while back: two graphic design businesses being run out of the proprietors ’ homes
An associate and I visited two such home-based firms. “ GD1 ” was a sole proprietor working out of a spare bedroom of her home, which she had turned into a home office. “ GD2 ” was a partnership: two guys working around the kitchen table of a condo. Both would pick up a job, then subcontract parts of it out to freelancers.
Think of NEFs as operating in a “ pickup ” economy in which people reach out through their personal networks to assemble today ’ s team of specialists, to find contractors, to be contracted. The proprietors at GD1 and GD2 would pick up a job, then subcontract for skill (other specialists: web developers, photo retouching, copywriting) and capacity (other graphic designers who can do work that the proprietors don ’ t have time or bandwidth to do). These loose organizations - temporary, adhocratic “ federations ” - are small, light, flexible, mobile, and customized for each job. CC, Ed Yourdon (yourdon ), http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3823194254/
So these are adhocracies to the nth power - all specialists, formed to swarm a job, then disperse. Now, this is an uncertain living. The proprietors aren ’ t getting rich, and they constantly have to seek jobs and find subcontractors to work on them. So why do they do it?
In a word, autonomy. They want to have a say over how they work, what they work on, when and where they work - and importantly, who they work with and for. They want to assemble their own loose organizations. But in a pickup economy, how do you find your team? How do you network?
Outside organizations, mobility and fragmentation are competitive advantages. But scaling is tough: You need a substrate of contacts to serve as potential subcontractors, you need to grow that network of contacts, and you need to be able to trust them. Done right, a small business can achieve flexibility and swiftness with a low managerial burden. GD1 and GD2 tackled this challenge in different ways. At GD1: Sophie explicitly characterized her subcontractors as ...
... &quot;friends.&quot; She didn ’ t want to subcontract anyone if she ’ d feel uncomfortable having them visit her home or attend her parties. And in fact, if someone didn ’ t work out for a given job, she wouldn ’ t fire them: she ’ d just tell them, the job is over, send me your stuff. That way, she could retain them for jobs for which they were better suited, and she could keep their goodwill. After all, they were friends - and they might subcontract her someday. In contrast, at GD2, Bob and Tom did not position subs as friends; rather, they described some as ... CC, toastforbrekkie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/toastforbrekkie/3894711099/sizes/o/
... &quot;douchebags.&quot; In their second year, they decided to hire employees so they could keep more production inside the business. For both businesses, though, proprietors absolutely had to network. They had to constantly assemble adhocratic teams for each project, and since a given subcontractor might not always be available, they had to find and be on good working terms with multiple specialists. How do you network in a pickup economy? CC, aye_shamus, http://www.flickr.com/photos/aye_shamus/2883012011/sizes/o/
That brings us to the third and last case study. Knowledge workers who don ’ t need face-to-face teaming - think of those graphic designers, web developers, copy writers, but also telecommuters, entrepeneurs, and consultants - these knowledge workers are mobile. They don ’ t need to work anywhere in particular. They can work out of their homes if they want. But they can ’ t easily network from their homes. So they start to go crazy at home. Some discover that they ’ re staying in their pajamas until noon. Others get depressed because they aren ’ t interacting with people. And in terms of their business, people who work at home face sharply reduced opportunities to network with people who might subcontract them or be subcontracted by them.
So how do they network? Increasingly, it ’ s through that third space. People without offices find themselves meeting and working in places like coffee shops. But coffee shops are noisy, unpredictable; you can ’ t get a table;
you can ’ t maintain confidentiality. You don ’ t know who else is there. You haven ’ t been able to develop trust. And you need a place where you can develop trust if you ’ re going to work effectively in an adhocracy.
From 2008-2011, I studied such spaces - coworking spaces in Austin. In these spaces, people work in relatively unstructured locations with unstructured schedules, share resources, form friendships, barter services, serve as tech support and emotional support for each other, subcontract each other, mentor each other, form businesses, and above all, network.
Parentheses: No longer in business. Brackets: Opened after I completed my study. From 2008-2011, I visited such spaces - coworking spaces in Austin. I ’ ve visited nine; one has closed, but four additional spaces have opened since the beginning of the year, bringing the current total to 12. That ’ s perhaps the most dense cluster of coworking spaces in the world.
Strikingly , although all proprietors say that they ’ re running a “ coworking space, ” they don ’ t always agree on what coworking is, and they definitely try to differentiate themselves from other spaces. I identified three models, all of which serve different types of people who work in nimble organizations.
The Community Workspace. Soma Vida and Space12 (pictured) belong in this category. The community workspaces defined themselves in terms of serving local communities; the object was to work alongside, but not with, others. Consequently, both had quiet policies in their spaces, a characteristic unique to this category of coworking space. Both were also mixed use, in keeping with their larger community-oriented missions. For instance, Soma Vida offers coworking, but also wellness services and entrepeneurship support. And yoga. Space12 dedicates a quadrant to coworking, but also hosts a nonprofit that sends books to prisoners as well as poetry slams and a church service.
The Unoffice is very different. Brainstorm, Cowork Austin, Link (pictured here), and Perch fall in that category. They focus on providing office space for those who do not work in an office, but miss the interactions and amenities of the office environment. If you ’ re self-sufficient but working at home is driving you crazy, this is the sort of place for you. Coworking is a sole service for these. And their focus tends to be on independent mobile professionals who want to work around other people.
Finally, the Federated Workspace is more about fostering active connections among coworkers, leading to working relationships. If you ’ re interested in contracting or subcontracting specialists for projects, or if you ’ re an entrepeneur who ’ s planning to grow your business and get referrals, this is the best-fit model. Conjunctured, Cospace, and GoLab Austin are set up under this model. By the way, this is Conjunctured. The board you see here is for coworkers ’ business cards. Again, coworking is their sole model. Federated workspaces don ’ t usually offer yoga. But they do host networking events, of course. So that ’ s the PROPRIETORS ’ take. What did the coworkers think?
I interviewed 17 coworkers at Conjunctured, Cospace, and Link. And what I found interesting was that when I asked coworkers to define coworking, (a) their definitions tended to be very different, but (b) they tended to emphasize the unoffice model - even at Conjunctured and Cospace, which were set up under the federated model! Coworkers emphasized different aspects of coworking beyond that: some discussed how the space fit them, some described the expense, many emphasized socializing (compared to working at home), some discussed collaboration, some said they wanted different kinds of people while others wanted like-minded people. Many described work-life separation and were glad that they could draw a line between the two.
In this sample, here ’ s the breakdown. This breakdown seems to be representative from what I could glean from the coworking sites ’ membership directories. Notice how heavily it ’ s weighted to nonemployer firms: 15 of the 17.
Why don ’ t they work at home? Because at home, it ’ s easy to begin answering email and suddenly realize that it ’ s noon and you ’ re still in your pajamas. Because otherwise you have to take a conference call in your car so the dogs won ’ t interrupt you. Because without human interaction, some people get depressed. And why not work at a coffee shop? Because you end up living on expensive lattes and danishes. Because you can ’ t take a phone call. Because it ’ s a bad place to meet clients. Because you can ’ t leave your laptop out when you go to the bathroom. Because you ’ re surrounded by people, but you can ’ t really interact with them.
So when they look for a coworking space, they look for several things. And their criteria depend in part on the line of work they do. For client-facing professionals, space, design, and professionalism are a big deal. They need to meet clients. But for business-to-business services, particularly Internet businesses, a bigger deal is flexibility. They want flexible hours so they can work at 4am if that fits them better. Location is also big. People want to work near their homes, but also near amenities. Amenities might be different: Conjunctured folks like to walk to Rio Rita, while Link folks like being near a daycare. Finally, and perhaps most important, the other coworkers are a huge factor. They want the right coworkers. But who are they?
Here are the criteria that came up in the interviews. In a word, people wanted colleagues. Colleagues they could talk to, get feedback from, develop trust with, learn from. Colleagues that could eventually become partners, could encourage them, and could bring them referrals.
With all these criteria, it ’ s not surprising that coworking is diversifying. We can expect other models to develop too, and I wouldn ’ t be surprised if some models developed into something we won ’ t recognize as coworking. Two key takeaways. One is that key aspects of coworking as a service are provided by those who are buying that service. It ’ s like a party. The space proprietor can send out the invitations and buy the booze, but ultimately, what makes the party is the interaction among the people who show up. The other is that coworking can involve two different types of work. The unoffice model emphasizes parallel work, in which independents work in each others ’ presence. They chat, they give feedback, but they mostly work on their own stuff. For this model, you can have a grab bag of different sectors: realtors, market researchers, web developers, artists. The federated model emphasizes cooperative work, in which independents network with, contract, refer, and sometimes hire each other. For this model to work, people have to be in the same or affiliated sectors. Think in terms of a web startup, an SEO specialist, a copyeditor, and a graphic designer.
Lessons we can learn. What makes these work?
First: Networks. In nimble organizations, people tend to organize themselves in networks, not hierarchies. Often, as at Semoptco, they might have several different networks overlapping each other. In these networks, leadership tends to rotate, depending on whose expertise is most needed at a given stage of the project. Since networks are made up of specialists, day-to-day discretion is pushed to the edges of the organization: the leader might command, but not control. Networks allow these nimble organizations to assemble rapidly, swarm a project, and disperse when it ’ s concluded. For instance, the graphic design firms each had a range of specialists that they could contact to subcontract pieces. The wider their network of potential contacts, the more rapidly they could assemble an appropriate team and complete the engagement. Again, the firm would command - they would convey specifications and deadlines - but the subcontractors would control their own work, executing it based on their own expertise. This configuration allows rapid iteration. It ’ s not surprising that the networked organization structure has been adapted by nimble organizations such as NEFs, open source software projects, and of course terrorists. When you hear government spokespeople describe Al Qaeda as a network, this is what they ’ re talking about.
And that brings us to leadership. In a nimble organization, as we ’ ve seen, leadership tends to rotate among members and it tends to be at the level of direction and parameters rather than detail: command, not control; doctrine, not operations. Adhocracies are made up of specialists, and a specialist knows the details of her work better than anyone else. For instance, at a coworking site using the federated model, a web developer might approach a copywriter and an SEO specialist to help her complete a particular job. She knows web design and can lead the project, directing the other two to build their pieces. But she doesn ’ t know the other two domains, and when she subcontracts for skill, she must be able to trust them to do their jobs. Next week one of them might end up subcontracting her, and the leadership role will flip.
That brings us to trust, which is an exceedingly important piece in this puzzle. If you ’ re going to work in networks, rotate leadership, and command without controlling, you must build up deep trust. We saw trust being built and tested in different ways across the case studies. The graphic design firms looked for people with whom they had already built trust: friends, former coworkers. The SEO specialists continually built trust by operating in multiple overlapping networks and applying trust from one network to another. Similarly, the coworkers continually built trust via everyday interactions, informal as well as formal. Nimble organizations tend to work across contexts and apply lessons across engagements, and trust is no exception.
This brings us to agility. I hope it doesn ’ t sound redundant to say that nimble organizations are agile - I really mean two different things by the terms. Specifically, agility involves the ability to rapidly make and reconfigure teams, to develop rapid trust across team members, to identify and swarm projects. Here, NEFs such as the graphic design firms seem to have the advantage because they have no employees: they can build a new team each time. From the client ’ s perspective, they “ hired ” a firm: GD1. Backstage, GD1 was one person working out of her house, creating de facto organizations at the drop of a hat and making sure that they could execute as an organization. Similarly, people working at a coworking site are constantly meeting and assessing potential collaborators, giving them a large potential pool of team members who they can trust and whose capabilities they know. But even larger, more permanent organizations can be highly agile. For instance, Semoptco ’ s SEO specialists were expert at forming new teams in different contexts and developing trust among team members. They also worked highly independently and used various mechanisms to share knowledge about their rapidly changing field.
That brings us to innovation. Because nimble organizations constantly innovate. It ’ s what they do: take a basic product, solution, or process, then customize it for the client. Take Semoptco ’ s SEO specialists, who were constantly innovating. Watching them work was like watching a train laying its own track. SEO was changing so rapidly that workers constantly developed new techniques, invented new parts to their client reports, developed new sorts of analyses, discovered and adapted new tools, and found new sources of information. They did all of this in a highly self-directed manner, like lone wolves. But - and this is key - they methodically brought back everything they learned, embedding it in their templates, their tools, their processes. In other words, whenever possible, they automated their innovations. Doing that meant that innovations spread rapidly across the organization, but also that they had time to work on the next round of innovation. The result was a highly reactive, rapidly changing organization that efficiently generated customized information products.
And that gets us, finally, to integration. Integration is the hardest piece of the puzzle, I think, because when you work with a team of specialists, you have to work across different boundaries: trades, fields, disciplines, divisions, backgrounds, activities. Getting all these pieces to work together is rare, and making them work for a sustained amount of time is doubly so. I ’ m not even sure that a short-term nimble organization can achieve integration well. They simply don ’ t have time to do so. But a nimble organization with a longer lifespan, like Semoptco, can achieve that integration. But it ’ s not easy. It requires a culture of independence but a network of reciprocal relationships. It requires a set of avenues for circulating and documenting innovations, such as Semoptco ’ s templates and automated systems. It requires making sure that people are aware of what they can do, how they can share it, and how they will be rewarded for it. It requires people with a general enough background that they can interact and talk with those from very different backgrounds. It requires continual learning on the part of individuals and the organization. And it requires constant coordination. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenny-pics/3734405742/sizes/o/in/photostream/
So what makes nimble organizations work? These different characteristics. [read] As you build these different characteristics into an organization, it gets remade - it becomes more nimble, more adaptable, more reactive. But it also becomes less controlled, less constrained, less self-contained. Not every organization can be nimble in this sense - and not every organization should. I don ’ t necessarily want my water utility run in this fashion! But my short-term engagements? Sure.
Spinuzzi - What Makes Nimble Organizations Work? - lavacon2011
<ul><li>Clay Spinuzzi, University of Texas at Austin </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @spinuzzi </li></ul>What Makes Nimble Organizations Work?
Adhocracies “ man will find himself [sic] liberated, a stranger in a new free-form world of kinetic organizations . In this alien landscape, his position will be constantly changing , fluid, and varied. And his organizational ties, like his ties with things, places, and people, will turn over at a frenetic and ever-accelerating pace. ” “ managers are losing their monopoly on decision-making ” 1970, p.125, 140
Improving Adhocracies Drucker 1993, p.40 “ from now on, what matters is the productivity of non-manual workers. And that requires applying knowledge to knowledge . ” (Drucker 1993, p.40) “ Knowledge is becoming the defining characteristic of economic activities ” (Burton-Jones 2001, p.4)
“ the new production system relies on a combination of strategic alliances and ad hoc cooperation projects between corporations, decentralized units of each major corporation, and networks of small and medium enterprises connecting among themselves and/or with large corporations or networks of corporations. ” Castells 2000, p.96
From 2002-2008, Nonemployer Firms... <ul><li>... increased in #: 21% in the US, 41% in Austin-Round Rock </li></ul><ul><li>... grew in # in Information sector: 32% in US, 64% in Austin-Round Rock </li></ul><ul><li>... grew in receipts in Information sector: 46% in US, 105% in Austin-Round Rock </li></ul><ul><li>... outpaced population change: 5.8% in US, 22.2% in Austin-Round Rock </li></ul>
Three examples from Austin: <ul><li>Lone Wolves : How Adhocracies Work Inside Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Nonemployee Firms : How Adhocracies Work Outside Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Coworking : How Adhocracies Form Between Organizations </li></ul>
Lone Wolves : How Adhocracies Work Inside Organizations
Search Engine Optimization “ Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via ‘ natural ’ or un-paid ( ‘ organic ’ or ‘ algorithmic ’ ) search results ... ” Wikipedia, “ search engine optimization ”
Projects at Semoptco Launch : Kick off campaign, examine needs, formulate keywords and goals, plan goals. • Account manager and 1-2 specialists • Small set of standard milestones • About 4 weeks Maintenance : Analysis, reporting, meeting, link building. • Primarily a specialist; “ lone wolf ” • Weekly, monthly, sometimes yearly cycles • Periodic coordination with account manager • No milestones - but long-term performance goals and constant problem-solving
Flexibility through Constant Customization “ Innovation is the primordial function ” (Castells 2003, p.100) “ The Internet is the essential tool to ensure customization in a context of high-volume production and distribution ” (Castells 2003, p.77) “ [Projects are] all very different ” (Stacy, Account Manager)
Extending the network “ I ’ ve got friends in med school. ” (Daria, Senior Search Specialist)
Nonemployee Firms : How Adhocracies Work Outside Organizations
Two Graphic Design Firms... GD1 : Sophie, a graphic designer in her mid-thirties working out of her home office. • Quit job at large publisher when her son was an infant. • Specializes in print publications. GD2 : Bob and Tom, two graphic designers in their early thirties, initially working out of Bob's condo. • Met at design firm. • Specialize in identity systems. Both must assemble flexible, recombinant federations of subcontractors for every project rather than relying on stable teams.
Why start their own business? Autonomy “ I don ’ t want a client on our roster where I couldn't go to a meeting in jeans . ” - Tom “ But Tom and I just need to decide, do we want to grow a business or do we just want to design ? Cause it's like they ’ re two different things. ” - Bob “ [I seek] respectful, productive relationships with clients that value efficiency and professionalism the way that I do. ” - Sophie
Assembling Adhocracies They developed networks of contacts through previous work with larger organizations. They established starter networks of contacts. They established trust through experience. They sought subcontractors who don ’ t need supervision .
Coworking : How Adhocracies Form Between Organizations
Coworking “ Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently , but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space. ” Wikipedia, “ coworking ”
Coworking in Austin <ul><li>Brainstorm </li></ul><ul><li>Conjunctured </li></ul><ul><li>Cospace </li></ul><ul><li>(Cowork Austin) </li></ul><ul><li>Link </li></ul><ul><li>Perch </li></ul><ul><li>Soma Vida </li></ul><ul><li>Space12 </li></ul><ul><li>[CoCreate] </li></ul><ul><li>[The Business Location] </li></ul><ul><li>[HubAustin] </li></ul><ul><li>[Center61] </li></ul>
Three Types of Coworking Spaces <ul><li>The Community Workspace (Soma Vida, Space12) </li></ul><ul><li>The Unoffice (Brainstorm, Cowork Austin, Link, Perch) </li></ul><ul><li>The Federated Workspace (Conjunctured, Cospace, GoLab Austin) </li></ul>
Coworkers had a Different Take <ul><li>Emphasized the unoffice model of parallel work: space + social interaction </li></ul><ul><li>But differed in definitions beyond the fact that they worked in the presence of other people. </li></ul><ul><li>Space, expense, socializing, collaboration, heterogeneity and homogeneity, work/home separation. </li></ul>
Who Coworks? <ul><li>Small business owners (10), often in nonemployer firms (8) </li></ul><ul><li>Consultants (4) </li></ul><ul><li>Dependent contractor, intern, employee </li></ul><ul><li>12 of the 17 had an Internet or information technology component to their business </li></ul>
Why Do They Cowork? <ul><li>At home: distractions, self-motivation issues, isolation. </li></ul><ul><li>At coffee shops: distractions, lack of security, isolation. </li></ul>
Why Do They Cowork? <ul><li>Space, design, professionalism </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Location </li></ul><ul><li>The coworkers </li></ul>