6 Tips to Organized Rapid Business Success

Filed in Business Idea, Business Innovation by on December 11, 2021 0 Comments

In the early days of the Roman Empire, the leaders of the Imperial Legions organized them for success by basing most units in Rome, and keeping them ready for dispatch to wherever they were needed for seizing an opportunity or solving a problem. Traveling a superbly designed Roman road system, the well-trained, fully equipped legions could reach the periphery of the empire with remarkable speed. As soon as the situation was handled, the legions returned to Rome, ready again to respond rapidly in any direction.

Executing your strategies is a similar challenge. Like the Romans, you need a dynamic structure that allows you to be fast, nimble, and continuously self-adapting. You need a structure that makes it easier to assemble the right resources and to deploy them at the right times against the right Leverage Points.

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1. New Situation, New Structure

How do you ensure that your strategies realize their full potential? Create an organizational structure that will support, rather than hinder their success.

Organizational structure is important because it shapes individual behaviors and causes certain patterns of events to reoccur. By changing the structure, you can create new behaviors and new patterns of events that will increase the probability of success.

Organizational structure is a choice, not a given. There’s no law that says, “When faced with new challenges or new opportunities, you must rely on the current organizational structure to address them.” That kind of rigidity would be ridiculous. Yet, that’s often the unspoken assumption. Most organizations find it difficult to make fast, fundamental structural changes. But is maintaining the status quo a sustainable alternative?

When you design a new strategy, develop a new kind of product, or face new forms of competition, your old organizational structure is obsolete for a very simple reason: it was designed for a situation that no longer exists. So there’s an urgent need to adapt.

Clayton Christensen, in The Innovator’s Dilemma, offers a good case study of the value of “organizing for success.” In the late 1980’s and early 1990s, Hewlett-Packard (HP) had a highly profitable laser-printer business, but was also interested in pursuing inkjet technology. The traditional bureaucratic approach would have been to make inkjets a part of the existing printer division. However, someone anticipated that the managers of the existing printer division, which was essentially a laser printer operation, would not optimize the inkjet’s potential. Why? The laser people would tend to measure the inkjet by laser standards and find it wanting. It was a very different kind of product with different measures of success: a low margin, low-resolution product targeted primarily at the consumer market.

The company decided to establish a completely separate inkjet group in another city hundreds of miles away. There, the new group was free to develop its own products, choose its own measures of success, and approach the market in a fiercely competitive way. If the inkjet business cannibalized the laser business, so be it. HP as a whole would win in any event. As it turned out, the news was good for all concerned. The HP inkjet became wildly successful while HP lasers continued to prosper.

2. Strategic Flexibility

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Because the world is changing so fast, your plans-and your organization-must be even more dynamic. A term for this is strategic flexibility-the ability, when necessary, to quickly change direction.

Consider what occurred with Microsoft in the mid-1990s. Thanks to the success of Windows, the company was growing exponentially. When the World Wide Web first appeared, Bill Gates considered it to be little more than a curiosity: “If you’d asked me then if most TV ads will have URLs [Web addresses] in them, I would have laughed.”

Then, suddenly, the Web exploded. “Some 20 million people were surfing the Net without using Microsoft software,” reported Business Week. But that was not Microsoft’s biggest concern. Sun Microsystems had developed a web-based programming language-Java-that directly challenged Windows’ hegemony over the PC.

Organized Rapid Business Success

Fortunately for Microsoft employees and shareholders, Gates was well aware of how market-leading companies tend to stumble when the dynamics of the market fundamentally shift. That stumble happened to IBM, General Motors, and many others, but Gates was determined it would not happen to Microsoft.

In just six months, Microsoft changed direction and reinvented itself from the ground up. All of its PC software was “Web-ized.” New, web-focused products, from browsers to servers, were developed by the Internet Platform & Tools Division-which employed more programmers than Netscape, Yahoo!, and the next five Net upstarts combined. “What they’re doing is decisive, quick, breathtaking,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks SKG.

3. New Technologies, New Structures

Whenever you are confronted with a new objective, new situation, or new technology, you have two choices: make the old organization work or create a new one. Most people opt for the former, and it frequently fails. Conversely, people who create new organizations, even if they are not very good, have a tendency to be successful.

Organized Rapid Business Success

Case in point: In the 1930s, both the Germans and the French were developing new technologies, including new tanks and new airplanes. On balance, the French technology was probably somewhat superior to the German. But the French leaders made a not-so-bold decision to use their new tanks and airplanes within the old organization structure, which simply spread them out all over France. The Germans, on the other hand, created an entirely new organization designed to take full advantage of the potential power of tanks and airplanes working together.

Organized Rapid Business Success

When the Germans invaded France in May of 1940, their fast, focused new organization quickly overwhelmed the slow, decentralized French. A large part of Germany’s success was due, not to more or better soldiers and equipment, but rather to the superiority of the German organizational structure.

The underlying rule: faced with new objectives, new technologies, or new situations, the odds favor those who create a new organization, not those who try to adapt the old structure.

Organized Rapid Business Success

4. Resisting Change

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The concept of creating a new organizational structure when confronted with technological change is straightforward. More challenging are the cultural shifts required at every level of the organization.

Consider the resistance to the changes that comes with new technology-a seemingly universal malady. A few years ago, Dell Computer Corporation released a study that revealed the scope of the problem. Despite America’s long-standing lead in technology innovation, 55% of all those polled remained resistant, even phobic, about taking advantage of technology in their everyday lives. “Many people miss their typewriters and feel more comfortable with old-fashioned alarm clocks.”

Organized Rapid Business Success

Resistance to new technology is also common in the military world. Horse cavalry officers fought vigorously against the abandonment of horses even into the 1950s, a good fifty years after it was obvious to everyone else that the day of the horse was done. As late as 1892, traditionalists in the U.S. Navy were fighting for a return to an all sail fleet. The pressure was so strong that it required the ongoing attention of a senior officer close to the Secretary of Navy, Captain John Melville (brother of Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame) to prevent it from happening. It seems the traditionalists were upset because the coal dust made it impossible to maintain ships in their erstwhile pristine appearance-a Measure of Merit which seems bizarre now, but which, under a different guise, is prevalent today in most businesses.

Organized Rapid Business Success

5. Organizing To Exploit Information

One of the real powers of new information technologies-and the most important reasons for having an organization that can respond with strategic flexibility-is the ability they give a user to orchestrate multiple events over a very wide continuum of time and space. These revolutionary advances in technology also make it possible to do many things more accurately, in a fraction of the time, and with results many times that previously achieved. Fast, precise, parallel operations are now imminently viable. And this changes the strategy game-for you and your competitors-in a big way.

Organized Rapid Business Success

Because of the rate of change, information is now like a perishable food. Use it or lose it-its shelf life is extremely short. You can’t hide information away somewhere and expect it to have value weeks or months later.

The organization that wins will be the one that exploits information faster than its competitors.

To exploit information rapidly, you need to embrace the new technologies that allow you to store, process and disseminate information using state-of-the-art techniques. An organizational infrastructure designed to deliver real-time information is also absolutely essential. This should include a wide range of electronic tools-from email and websites to live video and webcasts-to bathe everyone in as much information as possible.

But technology is not the ultimate success factor. The real key is an intelligent attitude toward information. One definition of intelligence is “the ability to understand and deal with new situations.” The arrival of the Information Age certainly qualifies as a “new situation” and everyone in business must deal with one of the key implications: real-time information is lifeblood in a hyper-change world.

Organized Rapid Business Success

Hoarding or even slowing down information flow in your organization must be considered a sin. When people are forced to make uninformed decisions, it almost always costs the organization more than it saves. An organization that is behind the real-time information curve is blind.

A prime way to impede information is to insist on serial transmission. Instead of broadcasting ideas that need to be shared in an organization, they are passed through layer after layer, trickling down slowly and often becoming distorted in the process.

It’s like the old party game-Maria whispers a story to Carl; Carl whispers it to Sue; Sue to Bill; and so on down the line. Everyone repeats what they think they heard, as best they can recall. By the time it reaches the last person, it’s a very different story than the one first told.

Organized Rapid Business Success

In business, the same thing happens. When those who attended a meeting return to explain to their direct reports what’s just taken place, the information gets passed down the line. The Level 1 people who were present at the meeting pass only a small part of what was discussed, some of it inaccurately, down to the next echelon, Level 2., which ends up with much less of the Essential Information.

The Level 2 group in turn passes only a small part of what they have received to Level 3. Finally, Level 3 passes on what they think they heard to the “Doers”-the people who actually use the information to do their work. Only a minute amount of Essential Information that made its way through the filtering process compared to what was discussed during the Level 1 executive group meeting.

Organized Rapid Business Success

That’s the problem with filtering. What can you do about it? Here are three guidelines to accelerate information flow and support FastTime operations:

  • Have an open attitude about information-Share it; seek it.
  • If the hierarchy slows you down, go around it-If necessary, create an alternative communication channel.
  • Avoid serial information dissemination-involve as many people, first-hand, as you can.

Organized Rapid Business Success

6. The Cost of Structural Change

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Structural changes have emotional and financial costs, and should not be lightly taken on. The best approach to planning and executing major change is to use the Open Planning process. The surest way to create morale and efficiency problems is to plan new organization structures in secret; first, nothing like this long remains secret and second, people will begin acting to protect themselves against the threats they think are emerging.

New organizational structures should, of course, be directly linked to the strategy. For example, you may have described a company that has entrepreneurial employees and cycle times that are a fraction of what they currently are. If this is what you really want, it is hard to justify sticking with your traditional decision processes that require multiple approvals for the smallest new effort.

Organized Rapid Business Success

Organizing for rapid success is essential; in fact; it’s difficult to overemphasize that organizational structures must be designed to solve today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, not yesterday’s. Very simply, the ideal organizational structure is “no structure after its time.” In other words, the organizational structure must be formed and re-formed to address emerging opportunities.

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Whatever the form, the organizational; structure must be very dynamic; a static organizational structure by definition cannot be correct for tomorrow. A dynamic organizational structure allows you to assemble the right resources (people, money, and equipment) to realize a specific objective.

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