In Milestone Two, you recommended a strategic plan to the organization from the course scenario for the IoT innovation project. Now that senior management of this company has approved your recommendation, your task is to recommend ways the organization can better support innovation. Remember that your perspective is still that of a middle manager for one of the top U.S. producers of luxury and mass-market automobiles and trucks.
In this assignment, you will read a case study and write a report that compares the course scenario organization’s structure and innovation culture with those of Skunk Works. This report may help you identify ways to improve your organizational structure and culture in an effort to better support innovation.
Using the information about the company in the Organization Overview document and referring to the Skunk Works case study in this module’s resources, compare the organization from the course scenario with Skunk Works and identify differences in organizational structure and culture related to innovation. Your comparison should include the following points:
Submit a 1- to 3-page Word document with double spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, and one-inch margins. You are not required to use sources. However, if you choose to use sources, they should be cited in APA format. Consult the Shapiro Library APA Style Guide for more information on citations.
Other info attached
Skunk works case
In June 1943 the war in the air over Europe was intensifying. And one particular
threat emerged which sent shock waves around the Allied forces – the appearance in the skies of the Messerschmidt Me262 ‘Sturmvogel’ (Stormbird), the world’s first
mass-produced jet fighter/bomber. Back in August 1939 the jet-engined Heinkel He178 had successfully flown along the Baltic Sea and this provided the prototype
for extensive development leading to the twin-engined Me262 capable of speeds
of over 600mph, way beyond the capability of any existing Allied aircraft.
In the USA the response was an urgent request by the Air Tactical Service Command of the Army Air Force to the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to develop
their own plane. The task was given to a small team of engineers including Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson and they began working on building an airframe able to
carry the British designed Goblin jet engine. The XP-80 project was given the go- ahead a month later; they didn’t actually receive the full contract until October but
by then they had almost completed the design! The contract gave them six months to deliver. In 143 days from initial request the team built and flew the plane,
christened ‘Lulu Belle’, a full month ahead of the (apparently impossible) schedule. The P80 Shooting Star had managed to fly at over 500mph, at the time the fastest
achieved by an American plane.
They achieved this impressive creative feat by working in a very different mode to
the mainstream organization. Many of Johnson’s team had experience of similar projects in the past within the giant corporation and had learned the value of
autonomy, clear and stretching goals and shared focused creativity. For example back in 1938 they had built a high speed high altitude fighter plane which became
the P-38 Lightning – a strange twin-boomed design which performed extremely well. Kelly Johnson had run this project under conditions of secrecy, walling off a
section of the factory and only allowing people directly involved to enter. The design involved challenging many principles in aerodynamics and airframe design;
the result was the world’s fastest fighter capable of 400mph speed.
The team working on the XP80 project followed the same principles and were located in a temporary facility using an old circus tent pitched on the far side of
the giant airfield at Burbank, California. The tent still smelt of the animals it had once housed and one team member gave their workplace the nickname ‘Skonk
works’ named after a comic strip called ‘Lil Abner’ which featured a mysterious hut
in the forest called the Skonk Works’ where illicit liquor was brewed from skunks, old shoes and other strange ingredients. The association of the smell in the tent
and this allusion to the comic strip led to their adopting the name ‘Skunk Works’ –
which has stayed with Lockheed as a convenient label to describe their challenging
creative projects team.
Johnson’s approach to leading the team stressed the need to preserve autonomy particularly in relation to senior management control and interference. In part this
was the result of necessity; Lockheed were working flat out producing planes for
the war effort and so Johnson was forced to make do with whatever resources he could squeeze out of the system. There was no space available at the Burbank
facility so the team had to work in a temporary arrangement involving an old circus tent attached to an outbuilding. In effect Johnson was forced to build what we
would recognise today as a ‘lean’ project team, with a small staff and a lot of cross- boundary working, bringing design and production people together early and co-
He developed a set of ‘rules’ which governed this approach – elements included keeping teams much smaller than the normal engineering teams in the company
and preserving their separation from the rest of the organization. An important element was the contractual right to perform the testing and prototyping – in other
words being able to experiment and fail, learning by doing. Kelly’s motto was ‘Be quick, be quiet, be on time’ and to help achieve the latter against a very challenging
deadline for the XP80 the team had a big calendar on the wall which counted down
the days left in the project – effectively maintaining the focus on the a stretching target. Much of his leadership consisted of creating conditions of what we would
recognise as psychological safety enabling his team to challenge and often break rules in pursuit of what were often apparently impossible goals.
For example in 1955 the company began the first of a series of projects for the CIA
– essentially top secret challenges around very fast spy planes which could fly very high and avoid enemy radar detection. Creating invisible aeroplanes is a pretty
stretching target, not least because it called of challenging some of the basic laws of physics in the process! The famous U-2 spy plane was one of their early
successes and the long range SR71 Blackbird emerged from that experience, operating for over thirty years as the worlds fastest reconnaissance plane capable
of flying at the edge of the atmosphere and at speeds of over 2000 mph. Further work led to the team achieving the impossible – pioneering and using ‘stealth’
technology they managed to create an aeroplane practically invisible to radar!
The idea of a ‘skunk works’ team working apart from the mainstream became
popular with other organizations (although Lockheed carefully protect the trade mark and name) and amongst others IBM used the approach in 1980 to break free
from the mainstream large company culture of a mainframe computer company to build the highly successful PC. Apple did something similar in 1983, setting up a
team to work on a very different design to their current Lisa model. Steve Jobs is quoted as saying at the management away-day which led to this that ‘it’s better to
be a pirate than join the Navy’ and this metaphor stuck, with the team who went
on to produce the MacBook even flying a pirate flag above their offices as a symbol
of the challenging approach they wanted to take, different from what was becoming a mainstream culture at the company.
Similarly Motorola’s iconic and highly successful Razr design was developed in a
new laboratory that the company set up in downtown Chicago, 50 miles from its
main R&D facility in suburban Illinois.
MBA 580 Organization Overview
(Processes, Structure, Culture)
Your company manufactures and distributes automobiles across six continents. The structure is very
complex and it is difficult to accurately count the levels of hierarchy. The company operates under a tall
matrixed structure design.
Tall structures can be cumbersome, and decision makers are often those farthest from the customer.
Communication can be slow and difficult, also slowing down decision-making speed. The specialized
functions and organizations, often referred to as centers of excellence or centers of expertise (COE),
allow for deep knowledge and expertise. Your company has many functional COEs where increased
structure, governance, and control allow for resource and process efficiencies. Resources are
centralized, reducing duplication of effort across the organization. These efficiencies can, however,
result in rigid, inflexible processes. In addition, COEs can create functional silos or reduced cross-
functional coordination and lack of connectedness, where each function is striving toward its own
Your company follows a centralized and standardized approach where enterprise-wide decisions are
often made centrally and at the top of the hierarchy. This centralization makes it easier to implement
common policies and practices, prevents parts of the organization from becoming too independent, and
capitalizes on specialization.
Matrixed organizations are often associated with this specialized COE structure. Rather than having
permanent cross-functional teams or organizations working on specific projects or product launches,
matrixed organizations pull teams together from the various functional departments. Specialists are
pulled from functional areas to work on a specific project or product design. In essence, they report to
two managers at the same time and may work on multiple projects simultaneously. Although the project
manager, who is on the same leadership level as the functional vice president (VP), supervises the
project, the true management authority still resides with the VP.
Specialists supporting specific product launches generally remain “seated” with their functional team
but meet regularly with their product team to advance the project. They may be fully dedicated to the
project or still work on other unrelated projects.
Finally, product teams are pulled together at the enterprise level and are not region-specific. Although
they may produce differentiated projects for unique regions, their primary focus is on enterprise-wide
Organization Structure Chart
Product A Product B Product C
Functional VPs: Project Manager Project Manager Project Manager
Specialists are pulled from functional area
to work on specific project or product
design. In essence, they report to two
managers at the same time and may work
on multiple projects simultaneously.
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