It's All About Work.
The Evolution of the Five Principles
The publication of It’s All About Work; Organizing Your Company To Get Work Done brings together almost two decades of discovery, research and new concepts. Dr. Elliott Jaques book Requisite Organization and its companion book Executive Leadership (co – authored with Dr. Stephen D. Clement) were groundbreaking in establishing a “requisite” methodology for executives looking to build sound organizations. In the years that have passed Dr. Clement has completed numerous organizational studies, interviewed hundreds of senior executives and applied the concepts of Requisite Organization (RO) to many organizations worldwide. Christopher Clement was his partner in many of these projects. However, Christopher also spent a significant amount of time away from the world of Requisite Organization as an executive and business owner. The principles in the book represent a combination of these experiences. In this paper the authors wish to share some of the more notable projects, discovery’s and learning experiences that guide the reader from Elliott Jaques Requisite Organization of the early 1990’s to the five principles contained in the book published in 2013. This is not a chronology of all the work done in the past twenty years but rather a highlight of the projects / experiences that yielded significant new concepts or “aha” moments.
projects in multiple countries first gave rise to the notion of “Organize Around the Work”. The Whirlpool study confirmed the utility of the business unit (BU) structure in North America. Because of vastly different workforce characteristic in other countries, that structure often required significant tailoring for it to succeed, albeit still with the requisite number of layers as deemed by RO theory. For example, Mexican operations required substantially more shift foremen to provide needed assistance to a young inexperienced workforce. (These foremen were the equivalent of the Army’s sergeants who play a key role in nearly all military unit operations).
in a post NAFTA environment we first witnessed the results of mismatched capacity between the organization and its customers. This lead us to analyze the level of work of the buyer and seller. This eventually gave rise to our concept and subsequent recommendation in many sales organizations to match the sellers level to the level of the buyer.
Medical Command - a project driven by a highly matrixed organizational structure. The complexity of the reporting relationships was driven by highly specialized roles reporting to multiple “bosses”. Rather than try to dissemble the matrix structure as RO theory typically prescribes, Dr. Clement began to really dive in and explore the true nature of these complex (yet unavoidable) reporting relationships in terms of the Accountability and Authority between all the roles involved. This was the origin of our emphasis on clearly defining working relationships in terms of Accountability and Authority rather than try to force a matrix organization into a traditional hierarchical structure.
this organizational project explored the unique organizational relationship when an organization does not sell/service its customers directly but rather through its franchised dealers. Is a Lennox employee Accountable for the performance of a dealer? What is the nature of the Authority between the Lennox Manager and the Franchise owner and its employees? This lead us to explore the role of the customer in an Organization. Where is the customer on an Organizational Chart? Thus putting us on the path of exploring the dynamic between an organization and it’s customers. Executives at Lennox were also intuitively drawn to the importance of the Manager-once-Removed (MoR) role. Dealing with manager’s two levels down was a natural part of their leadership culture.
Pepsi and G&K Services
these two projects were similar in that they both involved applying RO principles to the lower levels of the organization simultaneous with also applying them at the highest levels of the organization. Restructuring the organization from the bottom up was the initial focus and then ensuring that the highest levels of the organization “added value” to these lower levels as opposed to “getting in the way” of the revenue delivery systems, i.e. the routes. This experience demonstrated to us the importance of getting the first three layers right, “If we can fix the first three levels we just might succeed”. These two seminal projects further reinforced our belief that organizations exist to get work done, and in this case that work was physically delivered from a truck. By organizing the first three levels correctly we were then able to refocus corporate level work on longer term issues and problems and get them out of the operational component of the business.
In addition to this, we also partnered with a Strategic Planning company (The Michael Allen Company). It was through our partnership with them that we learned the often underestimated impact of a good (or bad) strategic plan on the organization and its structure. We comcluded that strategy must come first. If we apply the principles of RO to an organization that is proceeding down the wrong path due to a poor strategic plan, then it is very likely the organization will fail regardless of whether it has the right structure or not.
after playing a key role in the Lennox, Pepsi and G&K Services projects Chris accepted a position with G&K Services. Armed with his knowledge of RO and the new ideas discovered in his prior consultancy role, Chris fills several roles at G&K. Regional Marketing Director, General Manger and finally National Account Executive. He began a new chapter of learning not as a consultant but as an accountable manager and leader. His “front line” experience has proved valuable in vetting existing principles and testing new concepts and ideas.
Department of the Army – the Secretary of the Army (SA) initiated and drove many organizational projects which yielded a multitude of new ideas, discoveries and research.
It was in the post 9/11 Army that we began to see evidence of diminishing time span in senior executive roles. As the Army engaged in combat in various parts of the world, we witnessed this change accelerating as the conflicts escalated. We also simultaneous observed that the senior roles and the problems they faced seemed to be getting more complex, leading us to re-examine our thoughts on level of work. If the “work” of a role all points towards a Level VII role, yet the time span is that of something you would expect to see in a Level IV position what is the true level of that role? Is the incumbent individual suffering from a capacity shortfall?
A George Washington University Study and thousands of Level IV and V interviews conducted by Carleton Clement clearly demonstrated an increase in the complexity of the work coupled with a decrease in the time span of the role and the individuals. The work of generals was getting more complex yet the time they had to complete that same work was getting shorter. The “reality of war” was driving dramatic changes in the nature of work.
The Economic crisis of the last several years has brought what we now call Time Compression to the corporate world and even to small business. Work is getting harder and more complex for almost all organizations; the time to achieve or succeed at that work is much shorter than it has ever been.
We also worked several projects involving the political side of the Army concurrent with work on the military side of the Army. We discovered nearly 80 different authority verbs used throughout the government and Army to describe complex working relationships. Each of these authority definitions was not at all defined leaving the true authority between roles open to interpretation by the individuals. This lead to mass confusion and bureaucratic “paralysis” as to who could tell whom what to do, i.e. assign tasks. It made it nearly impossible to hold individuals accountable for output as authority was universally vague and misunderstood. We used this as a launching pad to finalize our educational programs aimed at clearly defining working relationships in terms of Accountability and Authority, settling on seven distinct working relationships.
The SA also initiated several large scale six sigma projects. In partnering with the six sigma teams we quickly discovered that six sigma projects and other “process reengineering” seemed to fare better and uncovered more cost savings if they were completed after an organizational structure review. We discovered many agencies were organized around process’s , as opposed to work, functions or people, however, you can’t hold a process accountable in the same manner you can an individual.
Chris Clement became the owner and General Manager of a Toyota franchise and eventually other automotive franchised dealerships. We quickly learned that some tenets of RO, time span and levels of work, played a diminished role in a small business. However, other components such as role clarity, Accountability and Authority and capability have greater impact on the success of smaller organizations. We began to formulate a new set of ideas of what it means to organize a small business.
Time compression extended to Defense Contractors in so far as they were required to deliver weapon system upgrades in one year or less. (Some of this haste was driven by the budget process which allocated wartime money annually). This project also confirmed complex working relationships emerged when one engineer worked for multiple “bosses”, e.g., a project leader and a home-base manager. Nonetheless, these relationships, if properly defined, negated the requirement of a matrix organization.
Education is the principle we found to be a critical first step in any long-term restructuring process. Once the principles were learned by all managers, talent pool assessment issues could be addressed by focusing on a person’s capability to do actual work at a given level instead of considering other nefarious variables.