Cells, Pods, and Squads: The Future of Organizations is Small

Think small and you will achieve big things. That’s the Yoda-esque, counterintuitive philosophy that nets Finnish game company Supercell revenues of millions of dollars a day.

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So really, how do you build a billion-dollar business by thinking small?

One key is the company’s supercell organizational model. Autonomous teams, or “cells,” of four to six people position the company to be nimble and innovative. Similar modules — call them squads, pods, cells, startups within startups — are the basic components in many other nimble, growing companies, including Spotify and Automattic. The future, as Dave Gray argues in The Connected Company, is podular.

Still, small groups of people do not necessarily make a thriving business, as the fate of many a fledgling startup warns. What is it about the cells and pods model that presents not just a viable alternative but the future of designing how we work together?

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Dr. David Posen on Treating Workplace Stress

As a manager, you need to know who’s wilting under the pace or workload… Ask people what they need, what resources would be helpful. And be a good role model… Give people permission to slow down.

Dr. David Posen, author of the forthcoming book, Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress in a Q&A with the WSJ At Work blog.

Dr. Posen breaks down three main causes of workplace stress: volume, velocity, and abuse. There are longer hours and faster paces in the modern workplace.

And then there’s the abuse:

Abuse is bullying, harassment, and all the politics people play. It’s amazing how one abusive person can create stress for dozens of people. It’s become a bigger problem because people have less freedom to say ‘I don’t want this job’ and go somewhere else. So people aren’t quitting and they’re not even complaining because they don’t want to seem like troublemakers.

Are breaks and reasonable hours enough to combat this type of workplace negativity? Dear readers, tell us about your experiences with what Posen calls workplace abuse or some ways to address abuse in organizations!

A Lesson on Setting Priorities

Coffee in the morning


We don’t know about the origin of this story but it’s a nice reminder about setting priorities:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day isn’t enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open area between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions…and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home and perhaps your car.

The sand is everything else…the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Enjoy a romantic dinner with the one you love. Play another 9 or 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the faucet.

Take care of the golf balls first…the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.