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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Magic 150

Some research says people can’t connect to any group larger than 150 members. So when you have 124 in your group – say, 124 colleagues where you’re working – even if you don’t know how to do something specific, you still know who to ask for help. This ability fails for group sizes larger than 150 people, and there won’t be any successful transactive memory (when you store memory in other people – on a side-note, Google seems to be a great way today to access this memory).

Bill Gore, founder of W.L. Gore (producing Gore-Tex and other products), was a believer of this theory of the magic 150. Malcom Gladwell in his book Tipping Point outlines the management style & hierarchical structure at the Gore company – or what seems to be the lack of such. Simply put, there are no bosses or job titles, and the company is still very successful. Individual company branches are split into groups no larger than 150. From the company web site:

“We encourage hands-on innovation, involving those closest to a project in decision making. Teams organize around opportunities and leaders emerge.

Our founder, Bill Gore created a flat lattice organization. There are no chains of command nor pre-determined channels of communication. Instead, we communicate directly with each other and are accountable to fellow members of our multi-disciplined teams.

How does all this happen? Associates (not employees) are hired for general work areas. With the guidance of their sponsors (not bosses) and a growing understanding of opportunities and team objectives, associates commit to projects that match their skills. All of this takes place in an environment that combines freedom with cooperation and autonomy with synergy.

Everyone can quickly earn the credibility to define and drive projects. Sponsors help associates chart a course in the organization that will offer personal fulfillment while maximizing their contribution to the enterprise. Leaders may be appointed, but are defined by ’followership.’ More often, leaders emerge naturally by demonstrating special knowledge, skill, or experience that advances a business objective.”


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