How long can the ‘command and control’ methods of the late 20th Century continue to have value within business?

It is becoming increasingly obvious that running things with many layered, and expensive, chains of command is failing. Information flows in two main directions within a organization. Top-down and Bottom-Up. The transition from hierarchy to network is taking place but the pace of change will have to accelerate. Increasingly I bump into leader who are at their wits end trying to keep their team responsive to the rate of change in the market place and society in general.

Here are just some of the changes (ref: Thomas L. Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat’):
1. Fall of the Berlin Wall – tilting the world toward free markets
2. Netscape IPO – creating a massive investment in fiber-optic cables (connection!)
3. Work flow software – enabling people from all over the world to collaborate on-line
4. Open-Sourcing – free software creating massive collaborative and self-organizing communities
5. Outsourcing – the migration of business functions to third world countries
6. Off-shoring – the proliferation of contract manufacture to China
7. Supply-chaining – the development of resilient networks of to achieve business efficiencies between retailers , suppliers and customer demand (e.g. Wal mart)
8. In-sourcing – logistics companies (e.g. UPS) enabling small companies act big through enhanced distribution networks
9. In-forming – the growth of information on the net e.g. the emergence of ‘Google’
10. Wireless – further enhancing the effect IT is having on business collaboration, personalization and mobility accelerated

Friedman goes on in his book to admit that the world really isn’t ‘flat’. It made for a great title. The field is very much tilted toward those parts of the world that can afford the technology and so forth, required to make the advances he talks about.

One of the most publicized factors in the ‘flattening process’ is outsourcing – and yet how this will play out is not clear.

I’d prefer to call the world ‘bumpy’ and it’s only going to get ‘bumpier’ as time passes – the inequalities that underpin the world economy are going to jeopardize the fantastic world Friedman envisages.

…and yes you’ve guessed it – I think we need to exercise a deeper more profound degree of collaboration to make the transition into a ‘flatter’ world.

A video about the ‘other side’ of outsourcing.