Future of Work

The 5-Step Guide to Flash Organizations

  • Christoph Hardt
  • June 08, 2021

Flash Organizations have really made an impact. Since the term was introduced by the New York Times in late 2017, it has resonated with New Work thought leaders, HR professionals, consultants, and founders of talent marketplaces like myself

The millions of Google search results for “Flash Organization” show that the Stanford-rooted concept hit a nerve. In a world that is constantly changing, businesses will only stay ahead of the game if they are able to rapidly change.

A Flash Organization is a temporary team of experts built to execute complex projects. Roles within the team are based on individual skill sets. The team is formed within a very short time period to resolve a specific challenge. Upon completion of the project, the team dissolves. 

In the future of work, those who are able to quickly access, evaluate and assemble talent on expert teams will have a competitive advantage. One major advantage of Flash Organizations is their versatility. They can be in-house or external talent, working remotely or onsite—as long as they are the best people for the task, these kinds of logistics don’t matter. 

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    Flash Organizations are not only a marker of an agile organization, they are an essential part of them and come into play when expert knowledge and teamwork are required to adapt.

    In the spring of 2020, we all observed how quickly the world can change and turn into crisis mode. Companies had to react: sort out their supply chains, transition into remote working, keep their financial streams liquid. Many were and still are in survival mode, while others dealt with massive growth.

    New scenarios and challenges required new expertise. Among the many learnings of this period, the concept of a resilient workforce will stay true in a post-pandemic world. The ability to expand your talent base quickly, get support and expertise to stay lean and agile, will remain essential.

    And Flash Organizations aren’t just an abstract construct. Deutsche Telekom for example has organized their Corporate Communications department in a Flash Organization setup based on a skill map since 2013. In fact, in the last few years, a vivid ecosystem has emerged which is supportive of the Flash Organization mindset. 

    Providers like Gloat, Cornerstone, People Analytix, and Tandemploy are operating as internal talent marketplaces managing internal mobility, upskilling, and skill mapping. 

    But are most organizations strategically set up to work in Flash Teams beyond ad hoc solutions? 

    In early 2020, we asked the consultants in our network about hurdles within companies that stand in the way of Flash team building. Despite Flash Organizations being en vogue in the blogosphere and being executed upon by some pioneering companies, consultants observed that the vast majority of companies aren’t ideally set up to build them in a structured way. 

    They are limited by processes and departmental boundaries, they don’t have enough knowledge about their internal talent pool and are not well connected to external support. 

    Flash Organizations in Business

    The good news is, these hurdles can be overcome. Finding and installing the right knowledge mapping tool will be easier than changing a company’s general hierarchical mindset, but it’s all doable. Just not in a day. 

    If you are willing to give Flash Organizations a try, then I recommend easing into it with a pilot program. It will give you the proof of concept you might need to convince critical voices resistant to change.

    1. Start small – Choose a department that is predominantly working on projects, not processes. Marketing & Communications, or IT & Product might be suitable departments.
    2. Work with the best – Identify the best people for the project in your company. Do not make compromises, apart from availability, and do not limit yourself by strictly adhering to internal hierarchies. If you find someone suitable in a different department, involve them, too.
    3. Incentivize the Flash Mindset – Reward employees for supporting Flash projects, for example, team leads that agree to let their employees work on projects outside of the department.
    4. Create partnerships – If you can’t build your team with in-house talent only, or would make huge compromises regarding fit if you did, then turn to external talent marketplaces. You can find inspiration in Jon Younger’s articles.
    5. Get better each time – Exchange with your employees and external partners about what is going well and what can be improved. Adapt constantly based on their feedback and make sure you keep them involved and onboard.

    If you follow these tips, you will see changes throughout your organization. There will probably be setbacks, some departments and colleagues will enjoy adapting, others will struggle, finding the right external service provider might be challenging but do not give up too quickly when creating your company’s Flash Organization blueprint.  

    If you succeed, then your company will be more agile and resilient to whatever may come in the future.