The corporate ladder has been the enduring model for success since organizational hierarchy was invented at the dawn of the industrial age. But organizations aren’t what they used to be—and neither is the workforce. A sea change of economic, demographic, and technological forces has been taking place, leaving in its wake outmoded expectations of the traditional one-size-fits-all world of work.
The workplace has changed in many ways. CEO span of management has increased 200% while organizational layers have contracted by 25 percent, limiting options to move up. Options for when, where, and even how work is done are expanding: More than 20 percent of U.S. employees no longer go to a traditional office space each day.
The workforce has changed as well. Employees are more diverse in just about every dimension: Only one in six households fits the “traditional” family structure on which the ladder model was built. Older workers are relaxing their conservative attitudes at the same time younger generations are bringing less conventional expectations to work. For the first time in history, women comprise half of the U.S. workforce—and 40 percent of them are primary wage earners, blurring gender roles in the process. As a result of these and related trends, organizations everywhere are searching for a new model better suited to a decidedly different workforce and workplace.
In The Corporate Lattice, bestselling author Cathleen Benko and co-author Molly Anderson offer keen observations about the transformation taking place and reveal how organizations can succeed in this new world of work. The authors show how corporate ladder thinking has, since the time of Henry Ford, shaped our understanding of how to structure work and manage people. They explore tensions in today’s workplace that result from the rigidity of the ladder’s hierarchy, its constraints on information flows, and the limitations of its singular upward path to success. Then they offer an alternative model: the corporate lattice™.
The corporate lattice model offers leaders a strategic approach to making the most of the changing world of work by:
More than a theory, the corporate lattice is both a model and a mindset that makes sense of the forces transforming how careers are built, how work gets done, and how participation in organizations is fostered. The authors illustrate these lattice ways using examples from a wide range of companies and three lattice-in-action case studies. They also examine the changing role each individual plays in directing his or her own lattice journey.
The Corporate Lattice Lattice is a strategic manifesto that offers a practical guide to organize a response to the forever-altered corporate landscape—and reveals why lattice organizations are both more productive—and profitable.