Next-gen IT: It's not about BYOD

Buzzwords like cloud computing, mobile, and agile don't apply either; instead, it starts with the basics of a healthy business

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Zappos -- by reports a very healthy company -- got the memo: It offers a departure bonus to all new employees at the end of their training period, paying anyone willing to take it to go away. Zappos' leaders only want employees who want to work at Zappos.

Collaboration. Collaboration isn't only for IT. It's for everyone in the business. They're all in it together, focused on the mission because it matters to them personally.

Collaboration doesn't matter because it's a moral imperative, "the right thing to do." It matters because it makes an organization more effective.

A culture of collaboration is the opposite of organizational siloes and is a characteristic of healthy organizations for exactly the same reason that degeneration into silos is a characteristic of unhealthy ones. The reason: There's no such thing as a perfect organizational chart.

Org charts and collaboration

Consider the org chart for a moment. An org chart divides and subdivide responsibilities. Superficially, this would seem to be a straightforward taxonomic exercise, nothing more complicated than creating a simple outline. As anyone knows who has tried to create one, no matter how you subdivide tasks, many responsibilities inevitably end up having more than one logical home.

Imagine, for example, a company that's organized functionally: It has sales, marketing, product development, manufacturing, supply chain, distribution, accounting, human resources, and information technology. Who is accountable for what is as clear as it can be, isn't it? It is, right up until the CEO wants to know who's in charge of fixing the problem of lagging sales in South America. Answer: Right now, no one.

There are only two solutions. One is to reorganize, creating geographically focused lines of business. That will work, right up until the CEO wants to know who will repair the new problem of a globally fragmented brand.

The other answer is to foster a culture of collaboration: No matter what goes wrong or whatever opportunities the company wants to chase, those in a position to make it happen work together to reach that goal.

Your company is a computer with a buggy compiler

Leading a healthy business doesn't sound complicated, does it? So why are so many businesses unhealthy, suffering from one or more severe business diseases ("dysfunctions" if you prefer 20-buck words)?

One answer among many: While leading a healthy business sounds uncomplicated, that doesn't mean it is uncomplicated.

Think of it this way: Any organization is, in a sense, a computer -- one with an incredibly buggy compiler. The CEO is the programmer of this computer, and as such, he or she has to figure out all the workarounds and bypasses to make it do what it's supposed to do.

If you've ever worked with a buggy compiler, you know how difficult it is to get a program working with it, at even the most basic level -- so cut those who lead large organizations some slack. You have, in a sense, lived their problems, though to be fair, you haven't been paid as much to solve them.

This story, "Next-gen IT: It's not about BYOD," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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