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 The ladder model — along with the outdated norms and expectations that defined it — is collapsing.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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.