It’s become quite fashionable to say that the old organizational schemes are dead, “we’re all independent contractors,” and we all need to sell ourselves as such — constantly changing roles and plugging into an endless series of ever shifting business ventures. While I’m all for flexibility and the willingness to change and embrace new challenges, I think the idea that we can all prosper as web-enabled lone rangers is bunk. The task of assembling the things that people want (whether that’s cars, video games, or financial advice) is generally best accomplished by stable teams and the attendant physical and legal infrastructure.
Let’s take my previous job as an example. I was a small part of the US branch of a mid-sized European company that designs and manufacturers sophisticated CNC machine tools. We had a stable team of hundreds of employees, supplemented by trusted long term suppliers and a few subcontractors. Like any company, we had a mechanism for setting wages and managing other costs that go into producing the product. Customers looked at the product and the support we offered, they assigned a value, and since that value covered our costs we did business. We kept improving the product & the service and the customers kept coming back.
How would you do this with independent contractors? How do know that the guy you just contracted to design the new widget understands Harry’s whatchamacallit? How much time would you spend explaining it? How much time would you spend figuring out who you can really trust? How would you control costs and schedules when the team is fluid?
The fashionable management gurus will argue that the product development cycle is too fast for stodgy old organizations. I say it’s too fast to be constantly reinventing your product development team!
Of course, this is also NOT to say that there is no place for outside contractors or consultants. In many cases it DOES make sense to get outside help…like marketing. 😉