Home / Strategy Execution / Flat and Lean Organisations – Why it Matters in Strategy Execution \\ Strategy Execution Series

Flat and Lean Organisations – Why it Matters in Strategy Execution \\ Strategy Execution Series

Strategy ExecutionThe latest Trends in Strategy Execution were discussed at the recent Executive Briefing hosted by TwentyEighty Strategy Execution in London. The third trend, “The State of Organisation Is Moving Toward Flat and Lean” highlighted how important the organisation’s own culture and structure is in enabling successful project management.

Here’s the trend:
The State of Organisation Is Moving Toward Flat and Lean
Smart organisations are finding a balance between hierarchy, bureaucracy and innovation by pushing decision-making out to the edge. Given this dynamic change in the business environment, organisations are dumping the old post-industrial model of how work gets done and becoming flat and lean. To be flat and lean, today’s leaders need to be less top-down and more collaborative and inspirational at all levels in order to drive strategy execution and alignment within their organisations.

So what does it mean to be a flat and lean organisation?

To be a flatter organisation it is all about the hierarchy of the organisation – less middle management, more direct links between senior executives and the employees. As you can guess, the idea of a flatter structure has led to a middle management groundswell, it will be those managers that will find no place in a future organisation structure.

This article from Fast Company gives a good account of the four different types of flat organisations – they include holacracy; network-centric, lattice and self-management.

How realistic these four organisational types will be in the future is anyone’s guess but if we bring it back to organisation’s performing better at project management, the flat organisation will certainly bring the sponsors and the delivery teams closer together, which can only be a good thing.

To be a leaner organisation we can interpret this in two ways – fewer people needed because the organisation becomes more efficient – or lean management, the management philosophy derived from Toyota which is all about eliminating waste, increasing value and continuous improvement.


This insight from McKinsey directly relates lean to the management of an organisation (as opposed to the operations of manufacturing) and highlights four principles of lean when applied to management:

  1. Delivering value efficiently to the customer
  2. Enabling people to lead and contribute to their fullest potential
  3. Discovering better ways of working
  4. Connecting strategy, goals, and meaningful purpose

Each principle builds on the one before, leading to that all important point of connecting the strategy to the customer.


Driving Collaboration

The strategy execution trend highlighted that it is the managers in a business that need to help drive collaboration, one of the features of a flat and lean organisation.

In the Executive Briefing we heard about some insights from an organisation that is considered to be flat and lean – Google.

You might have heard about Google’s Project Oxygen. Essentially it was one of the biggest surveys Google had carried out on its people after they realised that many of their employees hated managers. The survey set out to prove that managers didn’t matter in their business. Read this great overview from Forbes for more detail on the survey and its findings.

But guess what they found?

Google research found that not only are managers a critical component to corporate structure—but that good managers increased job satisfaction, retention and employment within their groups and the organization as a whole. That realization opened an entirely new pathway for research at Google: how do you identify what makes someone a “good” manager, and more importantly, how do you make someone “better?”

Here’s the eight attributes they found about their managers:


And the pitfalls:

Work Rules

More on Google’s Management Structure

What is Collaboration Anyway?

Team collaboration is not just a case of people working together in a team, it is about a team of people working together to achieve a common goal or shared vision. 

The “working together” part of team collaboration is about sharing knowledge, learning from one another and building consensus. Working together means solving problems together, all contributing and participating and building a sense of purpose. Team collaboration is not about conversation or building relationships. We use conversation and cooperation to help us reach the optimum of collaborating.

In a project environment for example, this is the team of developers working together to work out how to fix the latest bug or the project manager building the project plan with estimates based on individual team member inputs and discussions. In other words, we start out having conversations within the team that lead to us cooperating with each other and ultimately collaborating to find the right solution to the problem.

With the strategy execution trend we should be seeing more and more leaders helping people to work together to achieve a common goal or shared vision. 

Do you see that in your organisation’s project department today? Leave a comment, let us know how collaboration works where you are.

Read the earlier strategy executive trends – on enterprise agility and experienced project managers.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed!

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

Discover the new Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme

%d bloggers like this: