The Corporate Lattice
Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson
Harvard Business Review Press, March 2011

The corporate ladder has been the prevailing model for how companies manage their work and their people since the beginning of the industrial revolution a century ago. The ladder represents an inflexible view in which prestige, rewards, access to information, influence, power, etc. are tied to the rung one occupies. The problem is, the authors argue, we no longer live in the industrial age.

The pace of change is faster. Work is increasingly virtual, collaborative, and dispersed. Organizations are flatter. Companies are much easier to see into. Careers zig and zag. Work is done wherever, whenever. And information flows in all directions. The result? The ladder model — along with the outdated norms and expectations that defined it — is collapsing.

In their best-selling book, The Corporate Lattice, author Cathleen Benko and co-author Molly Anderson define the emerging Corporate LatticeTM model and argue convincingly that a lattice is better suited for today’s global business environment. They describe the shift across three dimensions:

  1. How careers are built: From straight up to zigzag. Rather than a series of linear career paths, lattice organizations offer customized options for growth and elopment. Lattice ways to build careers attract and engage the best talent and create versatile employees well suited to respond to change.
  2. How work gets done: From where you go to what you do. Rather than expecting people to sit at their desks clocking face time from 9 to 5, lattice organizations offer options for when, where, and how people do their work. Lattice ways to work increase productivity and retention while increasing strategic flexibility in business operations.
  3. How participation is fostered: From top-down to all-in. Instead of directed, top-down communications, lattice organizations nurture transparent cultures, providing multiple ways for people to share ideas, learn, and team. Lattice ways to participate tap the power of an inclusive workplace to drive innovation, growth, and agility.

Offering much more than theory, the authors illustrate the lattice model using rich, in-depth case studies of exemplars including Cisco, Deloitte LLP, and Thomson Reuters. They also explore the changing role each individual plays in directing his or her own lattice journey.

 

About the Authors

Cathleen Benko is Vice Chairman and Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte LLP, the largest professional services firm in the United States. In this role, Benko sets the strategy and leads the delivery of Deloitte’s signature talent experience to a highly skilled and diverse workforce. She is a leading authority on talent strategies and transformational change to achieve exceptional results. Previously, she served as Deloitte Consulting LLP’s global e-business leader and subsequently led the high-technology industry sector as well as the organization’s award-winning Women’s Initiative.

Benko has been named a “Frontline Leader” by Consulting Magazine and is the recipient of its inaugural Leadership Achievement Award for Women Leaders. She has also been cited by a number of prestigious organizations, including Women in Technology International (WITI) and the San Francisco Business Times, which named her one of the “Most Influential Women in the Bay Area” for eight consecutive years.

Benko is co-author of the bestseller Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce (Harvard Business Review Press, 2007) and Connecting the Dots: Aligning Projects with Objectives in Unpredictable Times (Harvard Business Review Press, 2003). Her byline and other contributed insights have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Ivey Business Journal, Strategy + Leadership, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Workforce Management and other national media outlets, including major television business and news channels.

Benko serves on Deloitte LLP’s executive committee and global talent council. She is a member of Consulting Magazine’s advisory board and the Western Advisory Council for Catalyst and was recently a judge for Harvard Business Review’s McKinsey Awards. Benko earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and lives in Northern California with her husband and two children.

Molly Anderson is Director of Talent for Deloitte Services LP, specializing in innovative strategies to engage today’s increasingly diverse, knowledge-based workforce. She designed and led the implementation of Mass Career Customization across Deloitte’s 45,000-person organization, significantly increasing career-life satisfaction, retention, and engagement.

Anderson is an authority on organizational effectiveness, talent strategy and learning and development. She has extensive experience implementing transformational change in large organizations through the integration of processes, people and technology. Her expertise spans a range of industries and disciplines including health care, higher education, mergers and acquisitions and customer service.

Anderson earned her MBA from Stanford University and her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. She lives with her husband and two children in Northern California.