The future is podular

Dave Gray
Dave Gray
Apr 20, 2015 · 10 min read

Process to pod

Chains vs. nets

You can think of any business process as a chain — a series of steps that people go through to get things done. Processes don’t depend on the intelligence or creativity of the people who run them, so much as their consistency and ability to perform a specialized task. The manager of the process is responsible for the intelligence of the system.

Standards and protocols

Even without a traditional command-and-control hierarchy, autonomous pods still need to make decisions and coordinate their activity in order to deliver value to customers. The secret of coordination is to make those exchanges as frictionless as possible.

Pods are flexible, pods are fast

When pods are autonomous, they can try new things without worrying about a “ripple effect” that will disrupt the activities of other units. They can adopt new tools and practices quickly, without having to ask permission. They can be flexible in the ways that they choose to respond to customer requests. This means that each pod can be free to innovate, try new things, adjust its work process, and so on.

Pods can fail

When a step in a complex process fails, the entire process comes to a halt. In a Toyota plant, workers have the power to stop the entire process when they see a problem or opportunity. This is great in the sense that it enables a process to continually improve, but it doesn’t solve the problem of interdependency — the whole process still must stop in order to accommodate the change.

Pods can scale up fast

Since pods are inherently modular, it’s easier to scale them up to meet increases in demand. There’s a huge amount of tacit experience in each pod, because each pod is like a tiny fractal snapshot of the entire business — focused on customer value instead of a specialized task or functional process step.

A podular system needs a backbone

A podular system trades flexibility for consistency

Pods don’t answer every business problem. Like any other strategic decision, the choice to go podular involves inherent risks and tradeoffs. A podular system is certainly not the most efficient or consistent way to conduct business. There is more redundancy in this kind of system, which usually means greater cost. When units are autonomous, activity will also be more variable, which means it will be less consistent.

The Connected Company

What does the next century of business look like?

    Dave Gray

    Written by

    Dave Gray

    Founder, XPLANE. Author, The Connected Company and Gamestorming http://xplaner.com

    The Connected Company

    What does the next century of business look like?