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Techonomy Events

Kevin Johnson of Juniper Networks on the Challenges of Disrupting Hierarchies

In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper Networks, describes the different structural models businesses must evolve through, and the challenges they face in doing so. Moving from a hierarchical structure to a more networked workflow, he says, is against a lot of manager’s intuition, yet essential to the development of a company. Also appearing in this video: Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel; Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick; and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.

Johnson: There are different models that companies evolve through.  The first model, a lot of times they call it a dependent model. It’s very hierarchical, exactly the way Marissa described. It’s a pyramid, basically. Companies then evolve from a dependent model to what is called an independent model, where you outgrow the ability for that hierarchy to manage everything so you create empowered silos within the organization that have to then go work. A lot of times those silos have to report back into a hub.  It starts to look like a hub and spoke type model.

But then from there the ultimate place to evolve is what’s called an interdependent model, and in an interdependent model in an organization, it accepts the fact that there are these informal networks and it’s a very dynamic network at which the organization forms and reforms the network to solve whatever current problems or current opportunities are before them. So in Dan’s case, if it’s customer satisfaction, here’s the top five things from customers. I guarantee you there was an informal network that formed that helped them solve that particular problem.

So part of it is figuring out how to take the leadership team on the journey, to move through these models. What does it mean to be dependent, what does it mean to be independent and what does interdependency mean? It’s not an easy thing, because it does require people to find the right balance between letting go and creating the environment for these networks to form and for people to solve problems and to trust in the talent and the intellect and the capability of people versus when you’re accountable for things your tendency is to want to go into a command and control tops-down type of a model. That’s a hard balance for some people to accept.

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