Organising your organisation

Indonesia’s national emblem is called Garuda Pancasila. It pictures the mythical bird Garuda with a shield on its chest and gripping a claw with its legs. The scrool reads: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, meaning “Unity in diversity”. Interestingly, the current official motto of the European Union is “United in diversity” and previously it was “Unity in diversity”.

According to the European Commission: “The motto means that, via the EU, Europeans are united in working together for peace and prosperity, and that the many different cultures, traditions and languages in Europe are a positive asset for the continent.”. This emphasis in fostering unity and coherence in an otherwise diverse and fragmented group of entities is not just confined to the realm of nations or state organisations, but has saturated the world of business as well. Needless to say, unity is important for a business organisation to function well. However, the changing landscape of operations and management have posed several challenges for managers in the area of maintaining a unified workforce.

For example, in my previous post about the practices of outsourcing and offshoring, I pointed out the pros and cons of delegating some business processes to external firms or foreign company branches. While some companies are hesitant about this kind of approach and would rather stick to housing their operations at a centralised location, more and more managers are finding outsourcing and offshoring convenient and efficient in terms of labour costs. However, should you decide to venture into outsourcing or offshoring, there are even more elements and issues which should be considered. For example, to most managers,managing an organisation that is made of many different and unconnected teams poses

several challenges. Often, managers tend to adapt to these challenges by simply treating different teams or divisions using different approaches (according to the specific needs of each), – but, alas, this usually produces mediocre to poor results. So how does one manage a fragmented organisation?

In a recent entry for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, author Brad Power provided three tips on Keeping Work Organized when Your Team Is Fragmented. They are as follows: First, create a shared purpose and an end-to- end process map. Second, share information on process performance liberally. And lastly, create an online community for your process team.

Looking at these actions, it may seem that the best way to address team fragmentation is to create a false or imaginary sense of unity, to make separate teams and units feel as if they are but one group. This is difficult (and in some cases, even impossible) to achieve, however. On the other hand, in the paper authored by Joan Henderson and Rodney McAdam (2001) entitled Decision making in the fragmented organisation: a utility perspective, they say that “to manage such fragmented specialised business units, executives need effective decision making processes that are capable of measuring key indices quickly, accurately and effectively”.

Perhaps what business leaders should keep most forward in mind is that fragmentation is not a bad thing in itself. Like most other business elements and resources, what should be given priority is to find a way to maximize it and use it for the improvement of the company.

Knut Harald Nylænde is the CEO and Founder of Moxie AS, a high-growth investments group based in Oslo. Aside from running his successful firm, Knut is also a trusted expert in management consulting and business development. He blogs at KnutNylaende.com about current issues and upcoming trends in business, economics, and culture.