Functional vs Business Unit Orgainzations LO13437

chris macrae (
Fri, 2 May 1997 18:02:01 +0100 (BST)

re LO13379 where Brian asks for references for assessing SWOTs of
organising functionally versus organisating around processes

Isn't the point that the extremes of either organisational form are to be
avoided?... In one case because knowledge isn't shared between the silos;
in the other case because responsibilities may not ultimatley feel owned
(and urgently met) by anyone...

Having said this, I side with those who feel that many corporate cultures are:
1) simply too functional to even to begin to learn organisation (eg they
need to unlearn politics of keeping info to one own's chest or making
complexity out of one's own function thereby making your empire big)
2) in consequence of 1) unlikely to take advantage of new info age meetings
of employee's minds on intranets etc
3) thus uncapable of networking across companies, because here a first
finding (from eg an area I know something about - Efficient Consumer
Response networking where I was one of a hundred plus consultancy team who
helped big companies pilot this in Europe) is :, you're not ready to network
unless you organise seamlessly (because prospective partners will exploit
the different promises your non-communicating silos make, or throw you out
of the network for being too time-consumingly inconsistent an organisation
to be worth even having a business affair with)
4) over-departmentalised orgs will therefore (I hope) disappear as only
world class (not necessarily big) companies evolve as fit to survive in the
glocal information era that's enveloping us all

While there are some Western CEOs etc of big orgs (and many of new orgs)
who are getting this balancing act right, I would suggest that there are
now many cases to learn a bit from of Japanese companies/networks who
operate neither solely in functional or process mode; they have spent more
than a generation action learning how to make this work. Not to take my
word for it, the interested browser could eg read some of the 20+ HBR
cases that Robin Cooper at Claremont has chronicled on Japanese companies
in the last 5 years, or his book "When Lean Enterprises Collide :
Competing Through Confrontation". By the way do we have any Japanese
learning organisation delegates at Rick's table? And if so, please correct
me if I'm wrong; but don't me modest either if I'm vaguely right...

Chris Macrae,

-- (chris macrae)

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