The “Organizational Joule Effect” and the “Blitzkrieg Approach”

If we go back in time to the high school days I believe that most of us will recall to
have spoken about the Joule Effect on the physic classes but if you don’t remember this effect discovered by the English physicist James Prescott Joule I will remind you of it:

Joule’s first law express the relationship between the heat generated by the current flowing through a conductor.

Joule studied this phenomenon and expressed it as follows: Q = I^2 * R * t

Where “Q” is the heat generated by a constant current “I”  / flowing through a conductor of electrical resistance “R”, for a time “t”.

Ok… now that I got your attention (or not) and you think that I am incredible intelligent I will focus on my point here…

I’m not a physicist and I hope you aren’t too otherwise you will not think that I am incredible intelligent… but what I recall from this law is that when you have energy current flowing through a conductor of electrical resistance for an amount of time there is always a percentage of that energy that is lost along the way in the system in the form of heat meaning that if you turn on a light bulb there is always some energy that is spent not in lightning the bulb itself but in the form of heat… in other words… energy waste.

Now think about organizations… companies…. I always felt that the functional organizational way of doing business, meaning separate activities in small clusters like Marketing, Finance, Operations, etc… increases what I call the “Organizational Joule Effect”… this means that this type of functional division creates in my opinion the largest waste of energy along a company structure because people will spend a lot of their time dealing with bureaucratic issues, structural problems, etc when what they should have been doing was focus on the business.

Don’t get me wrong here… I believe that no matter what type of organization you are in… even if it is structured in a way to optimize efficiency there is always some “Organizational Joule Effect” along the processes but my point is that this functional structure is the worst way to optimize for the Joule Effect and in fast passed environment businesses sometimes this can be crucial.

There are managers that obsess over efficiency… I am not one of those… because I really believe in the mantra: “Operational efficiency is not strategy” and for me the most important thing is Business Strategy so all the resources should be managed bearing in mind that the company exists to solve the business problems and not to solve bureaucratic issues in the structure so I defend that organizations should adopt what I usually call “Blitzkrieg organization” wooaw… this term I believe you remember… but if not I will remind you of your high school history classes… I don’t mind because it’s easy for me to copy paste it from Wikipedia… so here it comes…

“Blitzkrieg that in German means “lightning war” is anglicized word used to describe all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken, proceeding without regard to its flank. Through constant motion, the blitzkrieg attempts to keep its enemy off-balance, making it difficult to respond effectively at any given point before the front has already moved on.”

Blitzkrieg way of war was only possible if you had a lot of small units that could move very fast in the battle field making decisions fast along the way.

Now… how does this translates from the war fields to the enterprise environment?

For me the best way to be lean and fast in one organization is to adopt a structure in which you have many small autonomous multi-disciplinary teams very empowered that can focus on the business eliminating as much as possible the “Organizational Joule Effect”… these teams that I would like to call “Panzer Units” must be small to be agile and move at high speed… must be multi-disciplinary so they can be as independent as possible from the main organization and should be empowered by the top management so that they can have decision power.

Top management should be responsible for ensuring that the strategic vision of the organization is shared by all of these “Panzer Units” and that they are acting accordingly with it otherwise you might end up with a lot of discrete independent strategies that are incoherent with the main goal: solve the business problems.

PS: I just would like to stress that this use of German second world war terms doesn’t mean I support in any shape of form Nazism politics or vision of the world… I just want to use analogies so that it can be easier for me to make my rational clearer.

By Luis Frade