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Flash organizations: matching optimal teams

In this time of social media platforms, a new term comes up every now and then: flash organizations. Very briefly, flash organizations are temporary companies that can be used to quickly and effectively implement complex projects. To do this, optimal teams with the right skills are put together within a very short time. Sounds exciting. It’s reason enough to take a closer look at the “flash organization” model.

Flash organizations: what are they?

The flash organization model was developed in 2017 by Stanford professors Melissa Valentin and Michael Bernstein.

Flash organizations rely on crowdsourcing techniques but avoid the latter’s limitations because they are structured like organizations. Slowly, they are becoming more and more well known. Because of their commitment, even complex projects with an open outcome can be implemented quickly and effectively.

Flash organizations have the following characteristics:

  • they are temporary (for the duration of a project)
  • they are formed extremely quickly using IT
  • they contract employees from a specific pool and with certain skills
  • they have roles with assigned competences

How could flash organizations become more important?

Globalization, demographic change, skills shortages, technologization, automation, innovation pressure – our environment is undergoing constant change. The new framework and requirements that the so-called VUCA world entails require new structures and fundamental cultural changes in organizations. For hierarchical structures, presence culture and silo thinking no longer work in times of digitalization.

Businesses today also need a clear view of the skills they require to be successful now and in the future. Projects are a driving force for innovation and change; defining and developing new projects is vital to any business. In most cases, however, project initiation and project funding are still implemented in a classic top-down manner. Often, it is only about filling the respective project roles, and rarely about taking into account the skills of each person. In addition, there is the particular challenge of needing to solve increasingly complex problems for which comprehensive expertise is quickly needed. These are frequently topics that demand diverse expertise from different areas. Flash organizations can be an answer to these challenges.

Flash organizations are agile and can customize tasks and the team throughout the project. In the future, companies will only be successful if they can quickly assemble teams of the best experts and thus successfully implement important projects.

But must it always be external?

Flash organizations and the staffing of flash teams are usually discussed in terms of outsiders. However, potential solutions already exist in organizations: their own employees. Turning them into shapers of change is a great art, yet in the end it’s not rocket science. Today, businesses and managers must be able to recognize the knowledge and competencies that the employees of their own organizations already have, and they must be able to activate and use those skills.

The use of flash teams can be a clear competitive advantage for companies in the future. However, to truly implement this model or this new way of working, structures must fundamentally change. Middle management in organizations needs to be ready to temporarily release good people for a project. Organizations must have the openness to define employees’ expertise in roles. The employees must also be open to the fact that roles can (and always) change on a project-related basis. In addition, if flash teams are to be used, everyone must be able to see transparently where and what knowledge is available, who currently has the time, and which skills may be missing for a particular project. In this way, teams of the best experts can be put together in a very short time, and important and complex projects successfully implemented.

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