18.12.2015

Customercracy

Something interesting is happening in the world. People are expecting totally new meaning from their work. Making an everyday living or squeezing that extra percentage point of profit for the shareholders simply isn’t enough of a cause to get out of that warm bed in the morning anymore. At the same time global business has become so fast-paced and complex that large, bureaucratic, and hierarchical organizations are struggling to keep up with pace when agile, fast-moving startups and growth companies are disrupting their core businesses. Clearly there is a need for a step-change in the way we organize and manage our daily work.

Come new self-organizing models such as holacracy, leader-leader model, adhocracy, and Laloux model to name a few. All these models seem to mean the same thing, but all appear to have a hard time of capturing the universal meaning and purpose of self-organization. The reason, I think, is that every one of these models has an inward focus: how to organize and manage our company’s work most efficiently.

But that’s just one side of the coin – and probably the much less important one. It’s not your organization that should be the first priority, but the customer. It is far more important what you and your customer do and achieve together when working towards a common goal than the “roles, higher purpose, and distributed decision making” that all these self-organizing models emphasize. These details are only the enablers, not the purpose and essence of what we should be trying to achieve with the new organizational model – a superior customer experience.

Hence, having piloted our own version of this self-organizing theme at Bilot’s BI&Analytics business unit for the past four months, I would like to throw in a term that I think better describes what we are trying to achieve here: customercracy.

Customercracy turns the focus on what is most important. The way we organize our work is derived from the common goal that we have with our customer, not independently of the customer. In different customer situations different work approaches are required: agile, waterfall, resource hire, or DevOps. Furthermore, most of our people work with several customers simultaneously: in the morning with a major steel producer, at lunch time for a food&beverage company, and a late shift at a manufacturing company. For example, I have a top expert in my team whose work is in such high demand that she serves six major customers simultaneously – and, of course, all of them are priority #1. Should I as a manager try to micromanage this professional’s daily work and conduct complex scheduling? Or should I rather get as much out of the way as I can and let her do her magic driven by the customers and their ever changing needs?

In this setup, organizing the way most Professional Services companies do around industry verticals in a very hierarchical structure (director- senior manager – manager – consultant) and having rigid and bureaucratic processes to manage outliers just does not cut it. We need people collaborating across any organizational boundaries and coming up with solutions to the customers’ challenges immediately on the spot. The purpose of the organizational model is to facilitate this natural process by providing the tools and ways of working that support this, rather than hinder like most hierarchical and bureaucratic organizations currently do.

More on the nitty-gritties and how-to’s (including flat organization structure, Monday meetings, collaboration tools such as Skillhive, and Tinker Time) to follow in a later blog. But for now it is enough to understand that the ability to organize around the customers and their needs is probably the strongest value proposition that the self-organizing team model can provide.

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Jani Puroranta

 Bilot-Alumni