Territorianism — a weird dream about structures and maps

August 19, 2006

I have these weird dreams once in a while. Now I had another one about a week ago. As it happens with all the dreams, I forgot most of the details, but this time, managed to remember the essence. It was about corporate structures. (No… I’m not stressed and overworked. It wasn’t really about my work. It was more general, without reference to particular organizations.)

It was called “territorianism”. The basic idea was that your organization’s structure is not a hierarchical tree as we’ve come to know the org chart. Instead, it’s a map, with the various business units as regions.

There are a bunch of intriguing implications. For example, you can have uncharted territories that you need to explore. Perhaps segments you’ve not yet expanded into but might. The organization needs to function as a coherent unit built of equal pieces, since a map is two-dimensional, no unit is above or on top of each other. And there need to be clear borders between the units, and crossing points and procedures. (I’ve long believed that the key to any successful project is to have a simple yet clear procedure and simple milestones and handover definitions.)

The most interesting question, of course, is what and how to map. Should you map existing revenue? Customers? Current or potential? You could then talk about “population density” – the area of territory a unit occupies, vs the number of staff it holds. The lesser the population density, i.e the larger the area and the smaller the staff, the more efficiently the unit functions since the fewest people can cover the most territory.

Now, I’m sure this actually exists as some school of thought/business somewhere and there are all sorts of management training courses around it. I haven’t been to those. This just randomly came to me – and then left again.