Alternative Org Charts LO5741

Jan Lelie (
20 Feb 96 07:05:51 EST

Replying to LO5708 --

In reply to LO5708, LO5683 and LO5692:

>Both of these posts (and probably some others not mentioned here)
>discussed alternative concepts to Organizational Charts (and ultimately
>how an organization functions). This may be an interesting thread in

I agree. Here is my input:

0. Summary

I drew also a chart consisting of circles, five (Procurement, Production,
Providing, Accounting & Information, Engineering & Organization) in a
'web-like' structure of product and information interchange). The
structure wasn't implemented due to management re-evaluation of the
concepts in the light of economical bad weather. The 'root cause' of the
problems with organizational charts is traced to the paradox of form
(visible, copy-able) vs content (less-visible, takes longer to copy).

1. Circles on a pentagram, linked through physical and data streams.

During the start-up for the implementation of a new logistical information
system i drew an organizational chart in which the functional area were
incorporated in Product/Client teams. Based on product/(internal)
client/market combination (related to production technology) a number of
teams could be made up, roughly corresponding to the exsisting Production
Groups. I envisioned every team to consist of five functions, three
directly related to the physical stream (Procurement, Production and
Providing, a kind of sales/marketing/shipping/distributing function) and
two for the AEIO-tasks (Administration and Information; Engineering and
Organization). I drew these functions in five circles, somewhat at the
corners of a pentagram (or a five star, drawn with a eye and a smile) and
put communicating, confiding and co-operating in the centre: the
group/team leader/manager would be held accountable for the quality of
these. I asked the Procurement function of one team to work with the
Providing function of the relevant other team(s), to work "face-to-face"
(to reduce the effects of problems), while internally they would work
"back-to'back". At the same time, internally, they sat "face-to-face", so
they would be able to overhear communications. These teams of about 50
(any number between 15 and 150) would be responsible for "just in time"
and "zero- defect" delivery of goods. They would be measured on
(Inventory) Turn-Over-Ratio and Return-on-Investement based on Inventory
and Operational Expenses.

2. Recursiveness: Web-Star, or Web-*

On a higher level, the organization could be drawn in the same way: the
final assembly/physical distribution part working with the external
customers, the metal works shops (and others) working more closely with
the suppliers of raw materials. The different teams would be linked
through the physical flow and support from the overal AEIO-functions,
creating a "web". So i called the structure Web-Star. As the flow of
information is crucial for the functioning of this configuration (which is
also the reason for the development of the "classical" organizational
chart), the project for the implementation of the new information system
was also called Web-Star or Web-*. The sub-projects could now be called
Web-FAS (Final assemebly), Web-Units, Web-Cables, Web-what ever.

3. Results

In the long run: none. During the implementation my management
(re)considered it too risky, the IT-department claimed that the software
package wasn't designed to be used in this localized way, that it would
mean expensive interfaces, Finance and Accounting wanted to have their own
choices of soft ware implemented (what about the interfaces now, hein?),
the functional department heads feared loss of control, there was a
recession, so sales dropped, so we had to "smart-size" (a.k.a. down
-sizing), morale got lower, ... need i go on... .

On the short run, however, we made very fast improvements in reactiviness,
delivery reliability, inventory, quality, innovation rate. The most
outstanding achievement, in my eyes, was the unit shop team starting to
tranfer the production of one of the high labour content, mass-produced
sub-assembly to a Polish manufacturing daughter (almost) themselves. As we
were located in The Netherlands, we couldn't compete with their hourly
rates. With a little persuasion from my side (do not compete on
expenditure, compete on service), they realized it too and took their own

4. Discussion

The problem, i least as i perceive it, is that we somehow have
difficulties distinguishing form from content. I know i have. They
influence one another, but it is a "weak" coupling. On the long run
content "wins", but we see only form. So we copy form. To give an example:
the transfer of production i spoke of, to a low labor cost country, is the
same, in a down sizing classical organization it turned out to become. But
the content is completely different. The organization chart is also form.
The chart i drew also. But the contents differ. I suspect this is a reason
behind the feeling of 'fads and fallacies in the name of management
science' people have with concepts like BPR (Business Process Redesign),
down sizing, EIS (Excecutive Information Systems), JIT (Just In Time), ToC
(Theory of Constraints or Thriving on Chaos, whatever came first) and,
yes, LO, (Learning Organization). Structure follows strategy, i was
taught. But all i see is strategy following structure. Do you agree? Are
there more elements? How can we copy/transfer content faster? Do you copy?

Kind regards,

(c) (1996) LOGISENS - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development :-) J.C.
Van Diepenburchtstraat 14
2597 PT Den Haag
The Netherlands
+31 (0)70 3243475

We could benefit all when we realize ourselves, that we may differ in the
little things we know, but that in our infinite ignorance we all are
equal. -

K. Popper (1963, Conjectures and Refutations: the growth of scientific
knowledge (excuse me for incorrect translation from the Dutch)).

Jan Lelie <>

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