Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Beach Ball Organization

Picture a beach ball, floating on the ocean.
  • The beach ball represents an organization (company or government).
  • The ocean represents customers (citizens) that are not directly linked to the organization.
  • Where the beach ball touches the blue ocean represents the blue collar workers in the organization.
  • The peak of the beach ball is a small circle that represents the highest level within the organization (with the president at the very top point).
  • The bottom point of the beach ball represents the first (entry) level of the organization.
  • The different colors (longitude) represent different departments within the organization.
  • Inside each color (department) there a certain levels of the organization's hierarchy (stars).

There are certain structural rules that this organization follows;

  • A color stripe can be wider, but never taller - This translates into each department having the EXACT SAME levels of hierarchy - but can have larger numbers of employees.
  • The stars can be any size - This translates into individuals getting paid different salaries within the same level of hierarchy (salary range or "steps").
  • Part of the beach ball is above water, some is below - This translates into the dividing line between blue and white collar positions.
  • There is only so much space for stars. Take an average of the size of the stars and draw latitude lines - This translates into the (limited) number of levels in the organization hierarchy.

What does all this mean? Lets assign some departments to colors to see how it works. The Navy gets blue (obviously), and the FBI gets red, and the Secret Service gets white. Since there exists a latitude line that connects all three colors, there must be equivalent jobs (positions) all of those organizations. In other words, a chief petty officer (Navy), a special agent (FBI) and a sergeant (Secret Service - just guessing here) are at the same level. What then, is the major differences between these positions? Basically it is training and experience.

Let the training define the colors - i.e. You need certain training to be in the Navy or FBI, etc. Let the hierarchy levels represent experience - i.e It takes about 4-6 years to make chief petty officer, or special agent, etc. This means that (potentially) a chief petty officer can become a special agent - if they had the training and experience. Now here is where it gets interesting. If you had closely related experience (such as a Military Police investigator) to that FBI position, you should be able to "transfer" to that position (after you finish the FBI training). This allows for many opportunities that may not be available today, and potentially happier and more productive employees. So a possible career path would be enlisting in the Military Police, advancing to an investigator rank, transferring to the FBI, advancing to senior special agent, transferring to the Navy as a J.A.G., and then retiring. This career path is probably impossible to do today.

To further define the training (that defines the colors), you would need more than a single "course" of training for each department. Say the FBI needs to have the following training: investigation, laws revue, firearms, computer (plus a lot more). Say the CIA requires this training: firearms, computer, world government, foreign language. Say the ATF requires this training: investigation, firearms, explosives. You can see that there is some duplication here! Instead of the FBI, CIA, and ATF having their own computer training, how about having one course that they all attend? This has many advantages in reducing duplication and standardizing processes. In this way you can see that if you are an ATF agent and want to join the FBI, you would know exactly what training to take, and exactly what training you already have that is applicable.

I mentioned in my Military Reorg project that a Navy officer could be in command of Air force and Army troops - if he has the highest ranking. Lets see how this applies to the beach ball organization. Say the Homeland Security department sets up a task force (under a HS manager) to track terrorists. This manager could have FBI, CIA, Military Police as well as Homeland Security personnel under his "command". He would direct their activities, like any other commander (By the way, this is how you get "related experience" for transferring to other positions i.e. the Military Police officer decides to transfer to Homeland Security - does he have experience? He sure does).

This type of organization is really called a "matrix" organization - where an employee reports to more than one superior.

Interesting Note: The beach ball organization has ONE IT (computer) organization for all branches. This should cut down on the number of failed computer projects that each separate department has experienced recently.

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