This week’s readings have brought me to consider extremes. The Computerworld article “IT Governance: Stop the Pendulum!” discussed the pressures to centralizing and decentralizing IT and why companies are constantly swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.
The article suggests that a better approach is a hybrid model, which avoids both the centralized and decentralized extreme and instead focuses on centralizing only the pieces that make sense and leaving the rest decentralized. This idea of finding the middle ground seems intuitive, but with local business unit leaders and corporate IT having a different set of needs, there will always be pressure to divert away from this compromise.
This idea of compromise is also the ultimate solution for the HBR case “Globalization of Wyeth.” The original plan is to completely centralize the entire IT process. Over the course of the lengthy implementation, the local business unit leaders push back on this plan and ultimately, the result is hybrid model.
Ultimately, this was probably a better option than what the company originally had, but also better than what corporate IT was suggesting. This really spelled out the needs of the different stakeholders and how they could exert power to negotiate away from the fully centralized approach.
In addition to finding a middle ground in a corporate IT policy, this idea of finding the middle ground can also be applied to the new trend of mass customization and additive manufacturing. In the Wired article “In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits,” 3D printing is discussed as an option to completely customize manufactured goods to an individual’s specification.
Although this added flexibility is enticing, this does not mean that we should simply throw away everything that has previously been learned from centuries of manufacturing. There must be a middle ground. Decentralizing the complete design of items will hinder the designers from learning from others mistakes and slow down the forward motion of innovation. On the contrary, a completely standardized (and centralized) method would hinder the creativity and flow of new ideas that feed into innovation.
The article addresses this concern and discusses the hybrid solution. When building the rally fighter, the design and exterior was crowd sourced but the internal, complex components, such as the engine, was sourced from BMW.
As innovation continues to push us further into the future, will we be able to finally understand that any extreme is likely a bad extreme and functioning in some sort of flexible hybrid/middle ground is the key to success?