organizaciones azules

October 28, 2022

What cellular organisations are like and what they are for

Since the industrial revolution, companies have been organised following a hierarchical scheme of departments and divisions in which managers are at the top of the organisational pyramid, supervising their collaborators.

This organisational model has been shown to be extraordinarily efficient for operations, but it creates many problems in the post-digital world, hindering innovation and organisational agility. Self-organised, purpose-driven structures are more resilient to the onslaught of a maddeningly changing environment, they motivate employees more and minimise the need for control.

organizaciones azules

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The leading companies will be those that know how to transcend these status quo models and organise themselves in a more horizontal and transversal way, in networks of self-contained cells, teams that join together, inside and outside the organisation, that efficiently distribute power in an organic way, in which collaborators can contribute the maximum of themselves, empowering exploration and minimising bureaucracy.

Morning Star is a Californian company founded in 1970 that is dedicated to tomato processing. The company has no bosses, no middle management, no Human Resources department, no CEO and no Management Committee. There are no job descriptions, positions or duties. Only personal missions, which entail the responsibility of executing tasks, to which they contribute and in which they collaborate. And decisions are linked to those tasks. In other words, decisions are not taken by majority vote or consensus.

Decisions are made by those who need to make them, following a strict process that may involve consultation with internal or external experts. We replace hierarchy with a process that is accepted and followed by all parties. This characteristic, the importance of the decision-making process, is the characteristic shared by all cellular organisations.

It is not entirely true that in a company like Morning Star, a cell phone company, there is no hierarchy. There is no formal hierarchy, there is no explicit supervision by managers, there are no subordinates, but there is an implicit hierarchy, informal, woven by hundreds of relationships between people and areas, a hierarchy built from the bottom up, democratic, dynamic, flexible, mobile, natural.

Cell phone organisations focus on autonomy, that is, the ability of collaborators to make decisions without having to go through an costly approval process. In an organisation that empowers teams, trust is an absolute necessity. Cellularity, self-management and autonomy are three perspectives on the same reality: an organisation built from the bottom up, where employees are empowered, where trust replaces the obsessive quest for control.

How can cellularity be deployed in an organisation?

The reality is that it is extraordinarily complex, because the antibodies of enterprise operating systems to the innovation, flexibility and agility we need to achieve are enormous and very powerful. It is difficult for a company that lives in the paradigm of predictability and control to suddenly embrace a way of thinking and, above all, of deciding that is so far removed from the rules that currently govern it. A systemic approach to change is necessary. It is about turning the organisation into something radically different, a new competitive animal, with a concept of the participation and contribution of its members and a purpose-oriented approach that is not compatible with the current status quo.


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