The Boundaryless Organization: The phrase was coined by General Electric's Jack Welch back in the late 1980s. Boiled down to its essence, it means blurring or altogether erasing the lines that inhibit communication, productivity and effectiveness. The book examines four common boundaries and ways of making them, if not invisible, then at least more permeable.
First is the vertical boundary, the hierarchical one, which when unhealthy, tends to restrict the flow of information, slow response time, and inhibit flexibility in finding and implementing solutions. The book suggests many strategies for approaching a better state, the best of which would be a structure in which decisions are made on the spot by those closest to the work and acted on in hours rather than weeks; problems are solved by those most competent to solve them, regardless of rank; and "new ideas are screened and decided on without the use of fancy overheads and multiple rounds of approval."
The horizontal boundary is the line drawn between different areas/functions of an organization and is measured by the ease with which people can move "side to side." Calling turf wars a "cancer on the organization," the authors propose a clear, well-defined, well-publicized shift to a customer focus: Show one face to the customer, form and re-form teams to serve the customer, maintain a competence pool and share customer information across teams.
External boundaries are those that exist between organizations. The authors recommend establishing better interorganizational relations through activities such as site visits to customers, cross-value chain task forces, teaching employees to be consultants, and otherwise finding ways to create shared experiences between the organization and its suppliers as well as its customers.
Last is the geographical boundary, one already familiar to many organizations looking to change or not. Though the information here is, for the most part, nothing new, it fits well with the rest of the book and would be noticeably absent if not included. As with the other sections, The Boundaryless Organization sets forth a number of ideas for reducing or eliminating this boundary through strategies based on improving speed, flexibility, innovation and integration.
Good questionnaires, appropriate anecdotes and a friendly writing style make this book a useful read for managers seeking to break down walls and create a more seamless organization.