I found this gem by Aaron Dignan linked via this previous article. While the general theme is around "what to do with a 10,000 person stagnant organisation" (and it offers some concrete advice towards that), the really interesting part is the overview of three modern ways to structure a business, namely:
- Holacracy (Medium, Zappos): "authority should be distributed, everyone should be able to sense and process (solve) the tensions (ideas/problems) they perceive, roles and employees are not one-to-one, and that the organization can and should evolve toward its "requisite structure" (the ultimate structure for its current environment)"
- Agile squads (Spotify): "Instead of an engineering department, a design department, and a marketing department that each collaborate on products with dubious ownership, they organize vertically around products (or more specifically pieces of products) and traditional disciplines are loosely held horizontally."
- Self-organising (Valve, Github): "Unlike the examples above, they accomplish this by essentially having no structure. Employees are encouraged to work on whatever they want-to find the projects that engage them and do the best work of their lives."
GrantTree is somewhere in between Holacracy and Self-organising - but I'd never heard those terms before today, so perhaps that's the case for many people who will read this article.
Agile Squads is the only one that doesn't seem all that new - cross-functional teams are hardly ground-breaking - but perhaps the meat of the newness is somewhere else than in the cross-functional element.
The defining characteristics of these models are fairly straightforward. They aim to distribute authority and autonomy to individuals and teams. They let the changing nature of the work (expansion/contraction/shifting) impact the structure of roles and teams in a fluid way.
I firmly believe that if you're starting a business in today's ever-changing environment and not making any effort to make the business more adaptable to rapid change ("anti-fragile", as the article calls it), you're setting up your business for failure a few years down the line. Getting big won't protect you, either. See Blackberry as a warning.
If you read this far, you should follow me on twitter here.