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The paper discusses the changing needs of employees in the modern corporate environment. In today's world, employees within all kinds of corporations feel a need for more flexibility in the work culture. There is a growing need for workers to integrate their personal life with their professional life, because satisfaction with one's life is no more, as it was in the olden times, simply a matter of professional satisfaction. Today, people want to and need to develop themselves in terms of personality and feel that a decent amount of time be devoted to leisurely activities. The author mentions two important developments that justify this assertion. One example is gender empowerment, i.e., the recognition of the importance of gender equality, which has increased manifold, the involvement of women in the corporate work environment today. The other example is the increasing preference of most people for part-time work over full-time, which suggests that people want more time for personal development and leisure. Thus, companies need to adopt new and innovative organizational structures, so that a proper amount of flexibility in terms of work is afforded to its employees, a fact which is thoroughly supported by the Contingency Theory. The paper is divided into two important parts. First, the paper talks about the general aspects of flexibility which need to be introduced in the organizational structure of companies to provide the correct environment for satisfaction of employees. Then, the paper talks about two specific flexible structures that exist in companies today and analyzes each in terms of its present and future applicability in real life situations.
The general aspects of flexibility include Flexible Time, Flexible Location, Flexible Contract and Flexible Tasks, which are also referred to as "factors of flexibilisation". Each of these is discussed here:
Flexible Time: Employees today need new and different kinds of work schedules. Some of these are Flex Scheduling, which refers to variable work hours, i.e., an option in which a fixed number of core work hours are mandatory and rest may be completed by the employee at his or her own will, subject to completion of a fixed number of total annualized hours; Part-Time, in which employees have a fixed schedule but reduced number of daily working hours; Restructured Hours, in which employees have same number of total hours per week but reduced days of work; Leave Options, giving sufficient days of leave to employees.
Flexible Location: Refers to giving new and comfortable locations to employees from where they can work. Some of these are Working on the Move, where employees can work from locations outside the company such as satellite offices, virtual offices etc; Telecommuting, where employees may work from home; Hot-Desking, in which employees are assigned space in the office according to their needs.
Flexible Contract: This means offering different kinds of employment contracts. This includes Outsourcing, in which a specific project is assigned on to an external service provider; Freelance, in which work is assigned to independent contractors or freelancers on a project-to-project basis; Patch Worker; Contractual Arrangements; Casual Labor etc.
Flexible Tasks: Refers to giving different kinds of work to employees. This includes Portfolio Working, which means giving opportunities to employees to widen their knowledge base in other fields; Job Rotation, which refers to giving employees the option to work in different field within the company; Internal Applications etc.
The author talks about two organizational structural models which are based on the aforementioned factors of flexibilisation. These are:
Mother Ship Type Company Structure: In this structure, the core structure of the company is surrounded by the flexible structure. The core structure is that part of the company which is directly necessary to fulfill the main mission and objectives of the company. The flexible structures enable the individual employees to integrate their professional and personal life. These flexible structures include Information and Knowledge Management, which includes sophisticated forms of communication and information exchange by the introduction of high-tech Information Technology (IT) within the company; Organization and People, which refers to optimized human resource management and organization process, i.e., management in such a way that every employee and each team in the organization is able to perform satisfactorily; Facilities of work, which means proper allocation of office space to employees according to their needs; Training and Education, which refers to providing equal opportunities to all workers within the company for quality training and education.
Nexus of Treaties: This company structure is in the form of a network, rather than a formal and rigid structure. There is a core part of the company which includes only core businesses and key persons. Rest of the work is carried out through associates, who are external entities to whom projects are outsourced on a contractual basis. The entire company structure, thus, consists of The Core Structure of the company, which performs those tasks that relate directly to the fulfillment of the company mission, which includes initiation and coordination of various projects by outsourcing work to independent contractors, finding correct labor for different projects, output and process control as well as management of the intellectual property of the company; and Individual Associates, who are independent entities comprising of individuals having strong educational background and a great self-responsibility, and complete individual projects assigned to them by the Core on a contractual basis.
Finally, a comparison is made between the two aforementioned flexible company structures in which the author says that the Mother Ship Type Company Structure is a more formal organizational structure and is thus suited to large corporations, whereas the Nexus of Treaties is much more flexible and is suited for smaller companies. The author concludes by saying that a more detailed and complex analysis of existing flexible company structures needs to be performed so that new and innovative organizational structures may be created so that the growing need of people to integrate their professional and personal lives is fulfilled without compromising the efficiency and productivity of companies.
PERSONAL VIEWS ON THE ARTICLE
The article discusses an extremely important topic in relation to Organizational Theory and Design. There is definitely a need among people to integrate their professional and personal life, because people today cannot remain satisfied by professional achievements alone and need a sufficient amount of time for personal development. There is no doubt that corporations would need to restructure themselves to fulfill these needs. The article points out the two best existing flexible organizational structures, and provides excellent insight into how these structures work. The author gives excellent points on the methods and techniques that corporations need to adopt so as to achieve the goals of providing the best possible work environment for their employees, in light of the contemporary needs of the working class.
However, the article ignores the importance of professional achievements and undermines it too much in comparison to the personal needs. The author does not stress on what all the professional activities of a person does in his or her life. It has to be remembered that without sufficient professional accomplishments, a person's inherent need for self-respect cannot be fulfilled. One has to note that people, who do not work or work very little, are not recognized by the society in which they live and are not respected. The article seems to suggest that leisurely activities need to form a much more important part of a person's life as compared to work, which is not at all correct. Thus, I completely disagree with the indirect assertion that the author makes that work is less important that leisure in one's life.
Apart from this, I feel that the article lacks adequate insight into how a company would not have to compromise on its efficiency and productivity while incorporating a flexible organizational structure. Such a discussion is extremely relevant since it has to be remembered that the ultimate goal of any corporation is to make maximum profits and grow as fast as possible. However, if a company keeps introducing measures for employees to work less and take more time for leisurely activities or if a company has to rely largely on external entities to complete most of its important project, it would lose all stability and ultimately collapse.
RELATION TO EARLIER WORK
This article relates very well to PepsiCo, which was the company discussed in the earlier work. PepsiCo follows a relatively rigid vertical organizational structure, and is more mechanistic than organic in that respect. This is mainly because the company is gigantic and it is difficult for such an organization to cater to all the needs of its employees. The horizontal structure is, however, more towards the organic side. Due to the mechanistic characteristics of organization, there is a definite need for increased flexibility within the structure, so that the needs of the employees of the company are taken care of. It has to be remembered that the core structure of a company as huge as PepsiCo cannot be changed easily. Thus, incorporation of a flexible structure has to be in specific sections of the organizational structure of PepsiCo, i.e., either in individual departments or in a specific sub-structure within the company, which comprises of a number of departments.
As mentioned in the article, the Mother Ship Type Company Structure is more suited for large organizations such as PepsiCo. It has to be noted that the degree of success that PepsiCo has achieved could not have been done if appropriate measure for the satisfaction of its employees was not taken. However, despite having said that, it must be remembered that the incorporation of a flexible structure within the company leads to increased productivity of individual employees. Thus, if PepsiCo incorporates, at least in parts, the Mother Ship Type Company Structure, within its organizational framework, it could ease or even remove a number of the restrictions and rigidity, i.e., mechanistic characteristics, which minify the level of satisfaction of its employees, leading to a more happy, efficient and productive workforce.
As mentioned earlier, PepsiCo already has incorporated many features of Information and Knowledge Management, Organization and People, Facilities of work and Training and Education, which are the four key aspects of the Mother Ship Type Company Structure, but there is still considerable scope to further improve upon the existing setup, which could lead to a near-perfect corporate structure within PepsiCo, i.e., an ideal mixture of excellent corporate performance and commendable employee satisfaction.
Gaudenz, Urs. (2003). Future Companies need to adapt their structures to fit the demand for flexible work arrangements. Retrieved May 2, 2010 from http://www.gaudi.ch/GDZ/PDF/TP_UGA_FelxWork.pdf