When you hold an iPod or iPhone or iPad in your hands, it speaks volumes of the Apple Inc. culture as well. Lean, Innovative, Striving for Simplicity in Perfection to the limits, where the balance between Simplicity and Perfection gradually becomes so thin, it kinda becomes difficult to differentiate the two. The general idea is: “You’re part of something that is BIGGER than You!“. The result is – you hold a piece of electronics which is near perfection, yet simple. As Leonardo da Vinci used to say – “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication“.
I recently watched the interview of Ismail on TCrunch TV. Salim Ismail was a VP (‘Head of Innovation’) @ Yahoo! for a while – unfortunately, out of 3,000+ ideas which were floating around in Yahoo! at that time – none materialized into a concrete concept, and thus, Yahoo! never cashed into them. He mentions why Yahoo! faltered and the importance of maintaining a lean structure for current IT companies – especially maintaining a number of small groups working on multiple ideas and innovations – pushing the boundaries forward – and in most cases, the CEO and Senior Management needs to get involved in the workings of these groups.
2 classic examples of companies which got destroyed owing to lack of Innovation: Nokia & Yahoo! AOL could be added to that list as well. Thus, hierarchical management structures are obsolete now. Indian MNCs still following such structures require a paradigm shift sooner or later. Otherwise they could end-up being a Nokia or Yahoo! soon.
Modern IT management structure ought to be:
1. Have a panel of Senior Management guiding the small teams (3-5 members).
2. Have a number of smaller teams with TeamLeaders or an overseeing Manager who would be responsible for the delivery of the smaller teams; but ideas and conceptualization of these ideas should be direct KRAs for the members comprising the smaller teams.
3. These teams could utilize the expertise of one or more professionals – with functional and operational expertise in more than one areas. Everyone ought to contribute with ideas and come up with innovative ways of either conceptualizing the ideas and giving it a concrete form & structure.
4. A support (buffer) group could be created of specialists with expertise in different cross-functional areas, who could work with more than 1 team at a time.
5. The problem occurs when the organization scales horizontally & vertically with time. To maintain the root-level granularity, the same structure could be replicated with number of team members being fixed; and thus, more number of members could work on newer projects all the time. Thus, with time, you have a number of groups working on number of ideas and 1 or more support teams supporting these ideas (teams) which are making steadfast and/or breakthrough improvements.
Quintessentially, the idea is to maintain an extremely LEAN fighting unit (or workforce), exceptionally talented individuals with clear thought processes and fire-in-their-bellies, with Senior Management guiding them as when required. Not hand holding them all the time, but providing the mental & psychological support along the way.
Thus, the transition is made from ‘managing teams‘ to ‘managing ideas that push innovation‘.