Introduction: Every Employee an Entrepreneur

What does the future of work look like? This piece case-studies Matt Black Systems, a small manufacturing business in Poole (England), and suggests that a radical shift is, or at least could be, underway from ‘management-led’ command-and-control organizations to a new form of association of individuals working together under the umbrella of a company structure: a kind of collective autonomy.1

The problems of the traditional over-managed business is addressed in the first section, which is entitled Beyond Command and Control; indeed it is this problem (of unnecessarily high overheads placed on production) that arguably is behind the decline in western manufacturing.2

The second Section is entitled Autonomy Enables Productivity and gives a broad brushstroke sketch of a solution that has been devised by Matt Black Systems over the past 10 years of radical experimentation and innovation.

The third Section, The Great Transformation, offers a more detailed description of some of the salient features and results of self-managed work as evidenced in the Matt Black Systems experience.

Then the fourth Section, The Bigger Picture, looks behind the organization of the work to make explicit what kind of thoughts underpin this way of working. While organizational design brings to light the unconscious socio-philosophical paradigm of the society in which it exists, organizational development points to how change occurs. This innovative company’s approach views business success as wholly reliant upon human agency, and its wellspring at the individual level. Whilst not directly measureable or externally manageable, creative human agency can be fostered through a suitably designed environment.

The final Section, The 21st Century Company makes mention of other companies that have taken a similar path and highlights what makes the Matt Black Systems model unique.

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