We don’t know a lot about organizing organizations.

We apply techniques like command and control, specialization, batch processing, hierarchy, and other other lessons we’ve learned from TV, our parents, previous jobs, school, the military, wherever.

But there are other ways to organize organizations. And we’re learning more about them every day.

Evolving Excellence writes about Sun Hydraulics, a company that’s organized in an extraordinary way:

“Their culture is really something to see.  A $170 million public company that manufactures high end hydraulic manifolds and valves, profitable since it was started in 1970, [with] six plants around the world employing roughly a thousand people.

“What’s unusual about that?  How about this:

  • There is no organization chart
  • There are no job titles or job descriptions
  • No performance criteria
  • No bonuses and no perks
  • No regularly scheduled meetings
  • No approval levels for capital or expense spending
  • No goals
  • No offices or high-walled cubicles
  • If the peers accept the idea, then “management” is presumed to accept it — hence the need for very little management
  • Every employee is simply expected to figure out where they fit

“There is one honorary job title: Plant Manager.  But it’s not what you think.  This facility, what amounts to a very large machine shop filled with heavy 5-axis CNC’s, has hundreds of live plants hanging from the ceiling.  The Plant Manager is the person in charge of maintaining the plants.”

Read the rest of the post on Evolving Excellence for some hints on how they organize under these conditions. More extraordinary organizations coming up.

Topics Organization

2 comments · Show

  • ph0rque

    Sounds very much like Semco.

  • NeilCauldwell

    One of my lecturers used a case study on a company called Oticon, a hearing aid manufacturer who removed their organisational structure to become a ‘spaghetti organisation’ (Sun Hydraulics appear to have a similar strategy); http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/18/afghanistan.terrorism14

    My concern with spaghetti organisations is that you’re potentially employing (or attempting to employ, and completely dependent on) people who’ll quickly come to believe they’re capable of running their own company, or, at the very least, quickly outgrowing the space available in your company. Web start-ups would probably be more vulnerable to this, though; I’m sure the market place for hydraulic cartridge valves has high(ish) barriers to entry.