Dr. Christoph Hardt

Dr. Christoph Hardt

  • Dr. Chri­stoph Hardt is Co-Founder and Mana­ging Director of COMATCH. Before, he worked for McKinsey & Company for almost eight years, where he was mainly respon­sible for marke­ting and sales projects for clients from the energy and chemical indu­stry. In this role he was also a mentor for junior consul­tants and a member of the recrui­ting team. He holds a PhD in econo­mics from the Univer­sity of Bayreuth and several teaching assign­ments in B2B marke­ting & sales.

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The best inno­va­tions are simple ones, ones which seem fami­liar. You already know about Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions — at least, you already know about their results: Jaws, Titanic and Toy Story are among them. In fact, films are normally created by Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions. And yet, Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions are revo­lu­tio­nary. They’re temporary teams of people, composed of the best minds for a parti­cular task and based on clearly defined roles, they work towards a concrete, complex goal in a project setting, and are dissolved as soon as the project is completed.

If Holly­wood has built and used first gene­ra­tion Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions for decades, Stan­ford University’s Human Computer Inter­ac­tion Master Programme is already expe­ri­men­ting on the third gene­ra­tion. These are teams that develop in just 15 minutes, work remo­tely from one another, and are coor­di­nated by a plat­form called Foundry. Apps, for example, could be deve­loped this way. But also, specific problems that busi­nesses face could be solved through the crea­tion and deploy­ment of Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions.

When I first read the term “Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions” in a New York Times article last year – the lovely example of Holly­wood films comes from the author of that article, Noam Scheiber – I was finally able to give a specific name to a great deal of what I’ve seen and done in busi­ness manage­ment and new orga­ni­sa­tional struc­tures over my eight years with McKinsey and three years as a founder of COMATCH.

“A company will only be successful if it can quickly assemble a team of the best experts to tackle important projects.”

Why should entre­pre­neurs and mana­gers pay atten­tion to Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions? In the future, a company will only be successful if it can quickly assemble a team of the best experts to tackle important projects – it must be able to create Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions. These teams are the key to facing two of the biggest entre­pre­neu­rial chal­lenges of our time: the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of the world of work and the increa­sing number of cross-func­tional, complex projects. What’s more, the crea­tion of Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions is beco­ming even easier thanks to falling tran­sac­tion costs for recrui­ting inde­pen­dent experts.

There are many reasons why dynamic orga­ni­sa­tional struc­tures are opting for more and more project work. Repe­ti­tive tasks are beco­ming auto­mated and, little by little, less time is needed to complete them in our daily lives. New chal­lenges that involve digi­ta­li­sa­tion, globa­li­sa­tion and a growing customer-centri­city require cross-func­tional, inter­na­tional teams. Old depart­mental thin­king, in which employees with similar skills remain amongst them­selves in their day-to-day work, is inade­quate. If the customer demands it, then the purcha­sing depart­ment in Brazil, the sales depart­ment in Germany, and project deve­lop­ment in China must all work toge­ther on product inno­va­tion. Tech­nical tools like Slack or Asana have already made such settings much easier, by simpli­fying commu­ni­ca­tion and project manage­ment between multiple parties.

We can see the fine diffe­ren­tia­tion of profes­sional profiles in online marke­ting, a field that nobody had heard of 30 years ago, that grew with the rise of the internet. Nearly every company requires SEA mana­gers respon­sible for the special area of perfor­mance marke­ting rela­ting to Google Adwords. When it comes to dealing with organic Google search results, then SEO mana­gers come into play, often supported by content specia­lists. Face­book, YouTube, Insta­gram or LinkedIn are the world of social media marke­ters. Finding one person who is an expert in all of the above is impos­sible. Owing to their comple­xity, tech­ni­cally revo­lu­tio­nary deve­lop­ments like Google, which are being deve­loped at an ever increa­sing rate, require that we dive in deep and continue learning for the rest of our lives. It is going to take us more time in order to be able to under­stand, explain and cope with such topics. Nearly ever­y­thing will require specia­lists and nearly ever­yone will be a specia­list. Conse­quently, a company that would like to be inno­va­tive, develop, sell, and market itself will not be able to hire all the required experts for every single area it touches upon. On the contrary, compa­nies will have to focus on their USP and core processes, and outsource the rest.

“Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions will be a compe­ti­tive advan­tage for the compa­nies that master it.”

To outsource or not to outsource? The answer to this question always depends (amongst other things) on the tran­sac­tion costs, which have decreased substan­ti­ally in recent years when it comes to finding and hiring the right experts for a specific project. Many well-trained employees become anxious when they think about remai­ning in one company until reti­re­ment, so they strive for more freedom, self-deter­mi­na­tion and flexi­bi­lity. They often find these quali­ties in profes­sional inde­pen­dence, which is also a new point of contact: online market­places specia­lised in specific fields, such as 99 Designs for the crea­tive sector, or Gigster for deve­l­o­pers, which provide them with inter­na­tional orders. These market­places curr­ently use algo­rithms to orga­nise exper­tise, and in the future they will also employ AI. However, auto­ma­tion alone won’t guarantee quality: a human filter is still necessary. The market­places that are able to meaning­fully filter appli­cants for the pools will guarantee quality and orien­ta­tion to their clients.

Three years ago, I founded COMATCH, a market- place for inde­pen­dent consul­tants, with my colleague Jan Schaech­tele. I know that in the world of manage­ment consul­ting, there are talented people who are well-trained, very busy, and not inte­re­sted in a perma­nent posi­tion. The moti­va­tion of these consul­tants to work inde­pendently comes from increased flexi­bi­lity and respon­si­bi­lity, well as better-earning oppor­tu­nities com-pared to perma­nent posi­tions. On the one hand, these consul­tants are able to struggle through the dark valleys of a consul­ting project, and on the other hand, if they consider the project’s success to be in danger, they don’t feel it is their duty to tell the budget manager what he or she wants to hear. Their external perspec­tive and honest feed­back are given room and are valued as they operate inde­pendently from any company. Perma­nent employees often react to these inde­pen­dent consul­tants with fewer reser­va­tions than they have towards tradi­tional manage­ment consul­tants, and coope­ra­tive efforts become even closer and more successful. So market­places are an important engine for the growing success of Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions: they make it possible to find external specia­lists for each project compo­nent and to bring them into the team quickly. Toge­ther with addi­tional external team members or internal resources, they turn into an inter-depart­mental project team held toge­ther by a project manager – a profes­sional and conge­nial leader. Mana­gers can use this elastic form of recrui­ting to access specia­lists from all over the world and develop huge poten­tial for their inno­va­tions.

But how do Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions work? How I can make it so that an employee who comes out of a meeting Tuesday morning with project work and a certain budget X is then able to work on this task with the right team by Thursday? Sure, the market­places that can find the talent needed for my project; known as “trusted advi­sors” by Stan­ford profes­sors Michael Bern­stein and Melissa A. Valen­tine. Valen­tine call them. But all of this won’t work without a special company mindset, no matter whether it’s a tradi­tional hier­archy or fluid hola­cracy: as soon as perma­nent employees become part of the Flash Orga­ni­sa­tion, we need depart­ment heads who are willing to make good people tempora­rily avail­able for a project. These depart­ment heads also trust the employees will return to their jobs with valu­able input from their inter­di­sci­pli­nary project work, and they also know that at any time, in order to reach their own annual goals, they might have to rely on col- leagues from other depart­ments by means of a Flash Orga­ni­sa­tion. We need a work culture in which exper­tise defines the roles, because the roles define the Flash Orga­ni­sa­tion. We need employees who care less about titles than the success of a project, who have self-confi­dence instead of egos, and who can change their roles: today’s manager will do the legwork tomorrow. A project is managed by the person who has the most rele­vant expe­ri­ence – it doesn’t matter whether this person is part of the company or is external, nor how long he or she has been involved.

Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions are not just a tool, but also the expres­sion of an entre­pre­neu­rial atti­tude which, when rigo­rously imple­mented, leads to new manage­ment. Compa­nies will map their entire know-how pool and project needs into a closed data cycle: human resources meets company needs. Projects can be put toge­ther in a struc­tured way. Trans­pa­r­ency will be achieved – ever­yone can see who has rele­vant know­ledge, as well as who has time to work on a project at any given moment, the direc­tion of deve­lop­ment each person is pursuing and which skills are curr­ently missing. Can I help a colleague to grow into a new role, do I have to hire a new colleague or should I work with a free­lancer on this project? The company of the future knows and can make the best choice.

In the future, the deploy­ment of Flash Orga­ni­sa­tions will be a compe­ti­tive advan­tage for the compa­nies that master it.

Dr. Christoph Hardt

Dr. Christoph Hardt

  • Dr. Chri­stoph Hardt is Co-Founder and Mana­ging Director of COMATCH. Before, he worked for McKinsey & Company for almost eight years, where he was mainly respon­sible for marke­ting and sales projects for clients from the energy and chemical indu­stry. In this role he was also a mentor for junior consul­tants and a member of the recrui­ting team. He holds a PhD in econo­mics from the Univer­sity of Bayreuth and several teaching assign­ments in B2B marke­ting & sales.

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