Over the last fifteen years, rapid changes in technology, global communication, and economic stability have prompted an unprecedented shift in organizational structure. The hierarchical, rigid corporate structure that characterized the American business model since the end of World War II has been replaced by a dynamic, streamlined, and flatter organizational structure that calls on all professionals to adapt their skills. Today’s professional can count on a more exciting, globally influenced, and multifaceted career than previous generations due to this changing organizational structure.
Organizations are Becoming Flatter
One of the hallmarks of the American business model over the last several decades was the rigid corporate hierarchy; professionals would spend their entire careers at only one or two organizations working diligently up the "ladder" from an entry level position to the executive team. The ascent could take years, and at every step along the way there was a clear chain of command. Roles were precisely defined, both in terms of their responsibilities and relationships to other roles.
But over the last twenty years, the trend in organizational development has shifted away from a hierarchical model to a "flat" model, where employees are more equal and involved in decision-making. Companies are changing to focus less on hierarchy and more on collaboration, problem solving, creativity, innovation and team cohesion. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal noted that the general flattening of organizations had resulted in less middle management bottle necks and greater productivity.
The change can be attributed to greater access to knowledge and communication through the internet, new attempts at top talent retention, and a national culture shift toward valuing lifestyle over title and status. For professionals who are entering the workforce or interested in advancing, the new organizational structure means that the ability to manage collaboratively and entrepreneurially - not authoritatively - is a new essential skill.
Organizations are Becoming Smaller
During the Recession, many companies cut their workforce back to stay afloat. However, now that the economy is rebounding many of these companies aren’t rehiring for the roles they cut because they have learned how to do more with less. The recession forced many companies to look at their organizational structure and examine the levels of bureaucracy within their organization and trim positions that were made obsolete by faster, cheaper technology. Roles and departments were consolidated, and the result was greater efficiency, not slower productivity.
This does not mean that companies have stopped hiring or there is no opportunity; professionals must arm themselves with as many complimentary skills and functional abilities as possible to provide maximum value for these streamlined companies. Expecting employees to play a critical role in leadership management has gone from being a business necessity to a business strategy.
Organizations are Becoming More Entrepreneurial
A blooming trend in organizational change is the quest to make a traditional corporation more entrepreneurial. Instead of cultivating employees, companies are now building structures based on individuals at all levels, who can think strategically and act tactically to accomplish objectives. Instead of leaving problem solving and critical thinking to the executive management, companies are now imbuing taskforces and internal think tanks across departments with the responsibility of identifying problems and implementing solutions in service, production, and operations. It is estimated that 30% of large companies provide funds and resources for internal entrepreneurship initiatives, also known as intrapreneurship.
Modern professionals are now expected to be able to develop a strategy for handing a challenge, even a small or mundane one, and then execute the strategy efficiently. This trend is linked to the fact that companies are smaller and flattening out; when each individual has more authority, they also need to be able to work smarter and more diversely.
The changes taking place in organizational structure are exciting and innovative. The savvy professionals will be able to appreciate this excitement and develop their skills to take full advantage of the new opportunities in leadership and individual distinction it offers.
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