We are living in a new era that is imposing a new way of operating. Companies wanting to become up to date must do so in two facets: what they do and how they do it.
The” what” facet is about what its focus is, which is nowadays strongly linked to the impact on its ecosystem: How do we positively impact the value chain? How do we keep drawing closer to customers, and changing their lives? Companies shift the focus on themselves to focused on the ecosystem.
The “how” facet nowadays is driven by the necessity of agility and continuous transformation: organizations go from being closed systems like before to become open systems, continuously exchanging with the ecosystem. By exchanging with the ecosystem as an open system, it takes information from the market context to use for transformation and then go back to the market with a better offer, only to re-start over again. Obviously open systems exist only if there is observation, listening, focus on the other, inclusion, and openness.
Agility demands transformation and speed; admittedly the way traditional organizations are structured is far from focused on these attributes. The tiered pyramidal organization with segregated units operating with silos is slow and unsatisfactory in this new world.
That’s why we will undergo a decade of major restructuring for greater flexibility, speed, and responsiveness to the market stimuli (read that as the demands of the customer, of the distributor, of the patient, of the citizen, that is, of all the critical stakeholders of our ecosystem). In response to this challenge, organizational designs flatten and become very austere; they also resize to create several business units that interact with each other to generate value.
“The future is podular,” declared Dave Gray, author of The Connected Company (2012) almost 10 years ago already on the switch over of organizational design to a network of small autonomous business units to become more agile. Why “pod”? What does it mean?” “Pod” is the name given to an elongated part of some plants like string beans or vanilla, with tough skin containing several seeds inside.
What is a pod?
A pod is a diversely skilled team that works collaboratively to meet the demands of the external or internal client. It is a self-organized, collaborative, and autonomous team that is focused on meeting strategic, creative, and production goals. The pod team is in charge of the project from end to end, right from client relationship, delivery, and even through to ensuring the profitability of the project.
Pods in an organization relate to each other, forming a dense network. Central positions in this network are held by pods interacting with all of them, such that their centrality is defined by the highest degree of relationship with all other pods.
In a project organization, each project leads to the creation of a pod that self-manages as a small business unit that must add value and be profitable. The pod leader is a project leader who manages everything to do with this delivery. The pod is set up with the members who are needed for ensuring delivery quality and profitability; sometimes it will bring in someone from operations, or someone from Sales, depending on how complex the project is. The project leader can always make decisions within a framework: pods eliminate bureaucracy. Decisions are made closely together with the customer.
How is this level of autonomy possible? How do we make sure that a pod and another pod use the same approach? One of the secrets of the pod structure is the focus of attention that must be on the platform, on designing how it functions, which must be based on the organization’s values, culture and mission. The platform sets out the pod’s life cycle from start to finish, providing management procedures and tools as well as a clear framework of action that enables autonomy.
In this changing era, open systems and podular structures seek to eliminate bureaucracy. The only reality is that we have no choice other than to transform ourselves.