I just watched the following montage of Pixar’s flicks, which got me thinking about what it is that’s so different about the firm. What enables them to produce hit after hit when most firms struggle for a fraction of their success? Multiple directors have led their different projects and certainly players have changed, so what is the common thread of success?
I think it’s likely a culture thing. Sure, you need talent, but that’s table stakes. (There are countless firms with great talent that pull up well short on delivery.) I expect the difference here is that Pixar gives people the room needed to be insanely great. Gary Hamel provides clarity in his latest article in the Harvard Business Review, “First, Let’s Fire All the Managers.”
Finally, there’s the cost of tyranny. The problem isn’t the occasional control freak; it’s the hierarchical structure that systematically disempowers lower-level employees. For example, as a consumer you have the freedom to spend $20,000 or more on a new car, but as an employee you probably don’t have the authority to requisition a $500 office chair. Narrow an individual’s scope of authority, and you shrink the incentive to dream, imagine, and contribute.
The knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail. He can only be helped. But he must direct himself, and he must direct himself towards performance and contribution, that is, toward effectiveness. -Peter Drucker
For an interesting, and very different take on how to organize a firm, I recommend checking out Luc Galoppin’s Social Architecture Manifesto on Gary Hamel’s Management Innovation Exchange. Luc’s “management hack” is a well thought out offering on how to better organize for the knowledge economy. Check it out!