Rethinking Organization Design Amid Nomadic Human Resources

Decades of globalization, the increasing pace of business, frequent industry disruptions and the emergence of a diversified workforce have led the way for executives to create a new design of organization.

While many organizations have undertaken varying degrees of reorganization to boost performance (and have been met with varying degrees of success), to become more agile, more customer-focused and deliver overall better performance, organizations have increasingly adopted the team-based approach to doing business. Much like the military, the networks of teams have become a popular outcome of the redesigned organization.

Thus, the phenomenon of “nomads in an organization” is now prevalent across industries. These nomads move from one engagement or project to the next, in tribes of varying scale with one or two leaders. Organizations, on their part to enable this trend, are increasingly decentralizing authority to form networks of teams that can take swift action and are empowered to determine their own goals.

Catalyzed by increased competitive pressures, the need to speed-up strategy execution and tremendous growth in digital communication, organizations are replacing the layer-by-layer structure with a team-to-team one. Cloud technology, mobile applications and overall rising data penetration help teams review tasks, assign responsibilities, interact with customers and track progress.

From a more human perspective, teams drive engagement levels as well by driving the feeling of being a big fish in a little pond. Hence, it is imperative to keep team sizes small. As Jeff Bezos once said, “If I see more than two pizzas for lunch, the team is too big.” The network of teams also supports the gig economy as engagements have a defined time period.

At this stage, it is critical to examine the actual readiness of organizations to redesign established structures and processes as well as the accompanying need to measure the success of cross-functional teams with new performance controls. To put it another way, do managers and executives know how people function in team networks?

To answer this question, organizations need to see the situation from the multiple lenses. Chiefly, the new role of leadership, talent management and performance assessment needs to be the focus. For effective leadership in the new organization, span of control becomes less relevant whereas team performance on a specific task becomes more. When assembling teams, leaders need to now ask themselves “Do I want this person on my team?” as opposed to the conventional “Does this person make me happy?”. After all, an effective team drives organizational engagement more than a team of cordial coworkers.

Talent management in the team-based organization is incorporating massive online open courses (MOOCs) due to their global reach, wide subject portfolio and lower price point. MOOCs are essential for team-based organizations for providing a holistic view of the firm and its competitive environment — they can break down silos that may arise in the network of teams. Further, data gathered from MOOCs can help organizations create talent ‘heat maps’ and identify areas of improvement with the help of HR analytics.

Organizations are compelled to make performance assessment in the team-based structure continuous and more real-time, as many assignments are short-term and improvements need to be incorporated on an immediate basis.

Broadly, organizations can thrive in the new organization where resources are nomadic and teams are dynamic by ensuring the following:

- Real-time information to measure performance and disseminate information across digital platforms used by employees (including company portals and mobile apps)

- Empowering teams to decide their own plan of action to reach their goal and modifying them if required

- Incorporation of team results into employee performance assessments and shifting away from solely assessing individual performance to ensure greater collaboration

- Designating leadership roles based on project requirements instead of hierarchical titles