As One, From Many

We caught an interesting talk at the Drucker Business Forum this morning by James Quigley, the CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and co-author of the new book As One: Individual Action, Collective Power.

The book, which is based on extensive research by Deloitte, suggests that there are eight basic structures that organizations use to spur “collective action”—some of them more collaborative, some of them more directive.

What’s most striking about the analysis, perhaps, is that Quigley and his co-author, Mehrdad Baghai, don’t favor any one particular approach over the others. Rather, as Quigley said today: “Multiple models within a single organization will perhaps be most effective.” In fact, he explained, many of the highest performing companies in the world shift routinely among these different modes, depending on the circumstances.

For instance, Quigley said that Cisco fosters innovation from the bottom up, but once capital is committed to a specific product, the company employs more of a top-down system to deliver results.

Peter Drucker didn’t care much for the term “bottom-up”—“if only for aesthetic reasons,” as he once put it. But, as we’ve noted before, he would have very much appreciated the concept of using multiple models to get the most out of people. “Individuals will have to learn to work at one and the same time in different organizational structures,” Drucker wrote in a 1998 Forbes article. “For one task, they’ll work in a team. For another task, they will have to work in a command-and-control structure.

“Think of it this way: The executive of the future will require a toolbox full of organizational structures,” Drucker added. “He will have to select the right tool for each specific task.”

Notable is how close some of Deloitte’s eight archetypes are to ones that Drucker also identified over the years. Quigley and Baghai say that most organizational dynamics fall into one of these camps—again, each with its own distinct advantages: “landlord and tenants,” “architect and builders,” “producer and creative team,” “senator and citizens,” “community organizer and volunteers,” “captain and sports team,” “conductor and orchestra,” and “general and soldiers.”

Drucker, if a little less exact in his groupings, used similar metaphors: the jazz combo, the baseball team, the conductor and the orchestra, a corps of volunteers.

How about your organization? Do you use multiple approaches to get the most out of people, or are you locked into a single mode?