One of the most difficult challenges companies face today is how to be more flexible and adaptive in a dynamic, volatile business environment. How do you build a company that can identify and capitalize on opportunities, navigate around risks and other challenges, and respond quickly to changes in the environment? How do you embed that kind of agility into the DNA of your company?
The answer is to distribute control in such a way that decisions can be made as quickly and as close to customers as possible. There is no way for people to respond and adapt quickly if they have to get permission before they can do anything.
If you want an adaptive company, you will need to unleash the creative forces in your organization, so people have the freedom to deliver value to customers and respond to their needs more dynamically. One way to do this is by enabling small, autonomous units that can act and react quickly and easily, without fear of disrupting other business activities – pods.
A pod is a small, autonomous unit that is enabled and empowered to deliver the things that customers value.
Pods – also known as self-directed work teams – have been around for more than 20 years. Pods are 30% to 50% more effective than their traditional counterparts. A survey of senior line managers offers some of the benefits derived from implementing self-directed teams:
- Improved quality, productivity and service.
- Greater flexibility.
- Reduced operating costs.
- Faster response to technological change.
- Fewer, simpler job classifications.
- Better response to workers’ values.
- Increased employee commitment to the organization.
- Ability to attract and retain the best people.
Podular design is a concept that focuses on modularizing work: making units more independent, adaptive, linkable, and swappable. But the environment that surrounds the pods is equally critical to the success or failure of a podular system. Modular components are a critical element of a connected company. But to take advantage of pods you also need a business that is designed to support them
I am speaking on a SxSW panel with Dave Gray and other innovators this spring, on the topic of The Connected Company.