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Spinuzzi rise2011


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In this RISE 2011 workshop, I discuss how people are beginning to work in looser, more decentralized, networked organizations. I then pose a series of questions about these loose organizations. How do they work? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Participants will help answer these questions, partly by swapping stories. Afterwards, I'll summarize the discussion at

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Spinuzzi rise2011

  1. 1. Welcome to RISE WEEK 2011!"#$%&#&(##)*$+,&"#-&(##)*&./012314#)& 5#/67& "#)8*%&9+& :$1+&;<2=332& >))#?218*&@/#A*))#/B&C2D*/)28+&#A&E*F1)&
  2. 2. Hold on Loosely: How Loose Organizations Work Clay Spinuzzi University of Texas at Austin Twitter: @spinuzzi spinuzzi.blogspot.comIntro self.A core conversation. So Iʼll talk a little in order to get the ball rolling. Then conversation.Will compile this discussion and summarize on my blog.
  3. 3. But Don’t Let Go • What is a loose organization? • How do loose organizations work - how do they scale up for challenges while remaining flexible? • What are some “best practices” for loose organizations? • What are some typical pitfalls or mistakes of loose organizations? • How can we support loose organizations and make them run better?The questions we’ll be hitting today. Let’s talk about what “loose organizations” are.
  4. 4. 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, 140Weʼll start with Toffler (1970). Predicted that work would be- reorganized from departments to projects- attacked by transient teams of specialists- composed of cross-functional teams- led by different team members at different phases
  5. 5. Loose Organizations... • Adhocracies • Flexible Teams • Federations • Keiretsu • Networks • Flat Organizations • Starfish Organizations • SwarmsLoose organizations have been discussed under several headings. Some real differences inconcepts, but basics are the same. Moving away from rigid hierarchies, toward flexible,decentralized networks.
  6. 6. Characteristics Include ...• Agile, flexible, reconfigurable, mobile• Allied, dialogic, multiperspectival, polymotivated• Project-oriented, not oriented to organization/ hierarchy; cross-teaming• Autonomous (freedom, flexibility, creativity); emphasis on expertise• Innovative, customized for each job• Decentralized, networked rather than hierarchical; different leads for different phases
  7. 7. Examples/Contexts Could Include ... • Zapatistas • Tea Party • Virtual Organizations • Freelancer Networks • Coworking • Internal Project Teams • Open Source Projects • Task Forces • Church in a Box • al QaedaHow many of you are involved in coworking?How many independent contractors/subs working out of homes or coffee shops?How many in al Qaeda?We may like the associations of some of these more than others, but all of them exhibitcharacteristics of loose organizations.
  8. 8. “the new production system relies on a combination of strategic alliances and ad hoc cooperation projects betweencorporations, 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.96And weʼll see more as time goes on. Large organizations are retaining core functions and outsourcing the rest.So all these changes, and others, encourage and support adhocracies, in which specialists come together for a specificproject, team up to fulfill it, then disperse until the next job. These teams are transient, unstable, and continually reconfigured.But how do these teams assemble and work in practice?Let me tell you about three case studies, all in Austin.
  9. 9. Adhocracies within an Organization: The Case of “Semoptco”Case 1: The case of “Semoptco.” How do adhocracies work inside an organization? To find out, I studied the work of searchengine optimization specialists at a web marketing company.
  10. 10. 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)Bear in mind that SEO is a customized service within a fast-changing space. Writing about Internet businesses, ManuelCastells emphasizes these characteristics of innovation, customization, and fast-paced production. And so does Stacy, theaccount manager quoted here. So Semoptco had to organize adhocratic teams to execute flexibly, to customize, and toinnovate. It did that with loosely organized teams - lots of them.
  11. 11. Aggregate networks Project teamsThese many teams or networks formed an aggregate network in which everyone knew everyone else and a little about theirspecialties or capabilities. They functioned in a nonsupervisory context, overlaying the existing department-based supervisoryhierarchy. By enabling workers to form new associations on the fly, the aggregate networks allowed for flexible structures andloose organizations within the company. Itʼs like an incubator for adhocracies.
  12. 12. Adhocracies Outside an Organization: The Case of “GD1” and “GD2”And that brings us to our second case. How do adhocracies work outside an existing organization? The three technologiesthat 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.A case in point: two graphic design businesses being run out of the proprietorsʼ homes.
  13. 13. 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 Bobs 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.An associate and I visited two such home-based firms. “GD1” was a sole proprietor working out of a spare bedroom of herhome, which she had turned into a home office. “GD2” was a partnership: two guys working around the kitchen table of acondo. Both would pick up a job, then subcontract parts of it out to freelancers.
  14. 14. Why start their own business? Autonomy “I don’t want a client on our roster where I couldnt 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 its like they’re two different things.” - Bob “[I seek] respectful, productive relationships with clients that value efficiency and professionalism the way that I do.” - SophieIn a word, autonomy. They want to have a say over how they work, what they work on, when and where they work - andimportantly, 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?
  15. 15. 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.Outside organizations, mobility and fragmentation are competitive advantages. But scaling is tough: You need a substrate ofcontacts to serve as potential subcontractors, you need to grow that network of contacts, and you need to be able to trustthem. Done right, a small business can achieve flexibility and swiftness with a low managerial burden. GD1 and GD2 tackledthis challenge in different ways.
  16. 16. Adhocracies beyond Organizations: The Case of CoworkingThat brings us to the third and last case study. Knowledge workers who donʼt need face-to-face teaming - think of thosegraphic designers, web developers, copy writers, but also telecommuters, entrepeneurs, and consultants - these knowledgeworkers are mobile. They donʼt need to work anywhere in particular. They can work out of their homes if they want. But theycanʼt easily network from their homes. So they start to go crazy in that “electronic cottage” Toffler predicted.
  17. 17. Coworking “Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share valuesand who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.” Wikipedia, “coworking”For the past two years, Iʼve been visiting such spaces - coworking spaces in Austin. In these spaces, people work in relativelyunstructured locations with unstructured schedules, share resources, form friendships, barter services, serve as tech supportand emotional support for each other, subcontract each other, mentor each other, form businesses, and above all, network.
  18. 18. Aims • Work-life balance: “Our work space allows you to have dedicated time to concentrate and accomplish tasks, while working within a community of entrepreneurs, free spirits and individuals looking for more balance” - Soma Vida website • Mentoring: “We just want to sit next to this guy and just soak up everything he leaves behind [about running a small business]” - Andrew Bushnell, Cospace • Collaboration: “Im not going to let you go be on your island.” - Liz Elam, LINK • Swarming: “A project gets dropped in, we can swarm to kill it, disseminate, and keep flowing.” - John Erik Metcalfe, ConjuncturedThey have different aims. And notice that these aims all have to do with the shift to adhocracies:I can work anywhere, anytime. When do I stop?I work with specialists on inconstant projects. Who can mentor me?I can work with and draw on anyone. How do I get a chance to do that?I have a project; letʼs team up and knock it out.
  19. 19. What is your loose organization?
  20. 20. How do loose organizations work?• How do they scale up for challenges?• How do they remain flexible?
  21. 21. What are some “bestpractices” for loose organizations?
  22. 22. What are some pitfallsof loose organizations?
  23. 23. How can we supportloose organizations?
  24. 24. Continue the Conversation spinuzzi.blogspot.comContinue the conversation at
  25. 25. RISE Specialty Membership Groups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
  26. 26. COMMUNITY SUPPORT !"#$%&$()*&%$+,"-$-(--"&).$$$ ! "#$%&$!&(()*+!,)*!#)-%#!$.+*$(*$.$*&!%./!0$#(!&!+)!1$$(!+02&!-).3$*$.-$!3*$$4! !!5)*!-).+*267).&!0$#(!&!-).7.$!/$#28$*2.9!+0$!8%#$!)3!%!0290:/)##%*!-).3$*$.-$! %#).9!;2+0!+0%+!.6$%+%6#$!(*2-$!+%94!! ! ! ! /0(#1($+&$#&)2+($3%$-()#")1$4(%5&6#$ 789: $2)#$%&6$ #(-"6(#$2;&)+$+&$<=>==?$! The mission of RISE is to inspire and empower entrepreneurs of all stages.