W.L. Gore & Associates (Gore), a 65 year old materials science company employing 13,000 associates that is perhaps most famous for GORE-TEX, is an interesting example of a successful organizational structure that isn’t based on command and control hierarchies.
Gore employs a networked organization structure, which is designed to foster innovation, encourage employee engagement, and promote decentralization. The networked organization structure is built around the idea of breaking down traditional hierarchies and replacing them with small, cross-functional teams that work together to achieve common goals.
One of the key concepts Gore uses for scaling this approach is Dunbar's Number, which is the suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships, typically around 150 people. Gore believes that by organizing teams around this number, they are able to maintain cohesion and communication while still remaining agile and efficient.
Gore's networked organization structure is also designed to maximize employee autonomy and flexibility. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their work and are given the freedom to make key decisions without the need for approval from a hierarchy. This approach emphasizes team-driven decision-making, mutual accountability, and constant communication through informal channels.
Overall, Gore's networked organization structure and use of Dunbar's Number highlights the value of breaking down hierarchies and promoting agile, flexible, and collaborative teams. This approach has been successful in fostering innovation and adaptability and has been embraced by other companies seeking to modernize their organizational structures.
If you would like help exploring different approaches to corporate restructuring, choosing and deploying one, reach out to Pepper Foster Consulting.
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