Virtual Partnerships
A case study in working business models for New Economy

John Steven Calder
275 Grand View
San Francisco CA 94114

With the rise of the Internet and advances in communications technologies, the idea of a 'hard' office, a place of work, is rapidly becoming obsolete. Management techniques have not evolved much from the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 20th Century.

I phrase the term: "Management through Intimidation" as a summary of the current state of collaboration and project and personnel management. Business schools have examined new and modern management techniques but have failed to implement them in industry.

Managers like to have their employees under their control and watch at all times. Employment contracts are written limiting the rights of the workers while in the employ of the company. Actions as well as thoughts are controlled and limited by the vast majority of American companies, all to protect the company's assets, which in most companies are the employees themselves.

In many Asian countries, in particular China, I have observed an even more basic and, maybe primal, form of management: "Management through Intimidation and Observation". Managers are literally positioned with sight lines to their subordinates.


Figure 1: China Manufacturing Facility Floor Plan

Figure 2: American Office Floor Plan

Click on image for larger version


Figure 1 is an example of a manufacturing company I once visited in China. Each 'worker' at their workstation, is observed by their 'line manager', who in turn, and literally within line of sight, 'unit manager'. Again each manager is located within the line of sight by the next higher manager and so on, even at the Asst. Manager to Plant Manager.

"Skyscrapers will make dreadful ruins" Buckminster Fuller

This was not an architectural statement, it was a social statement. There is literally no difference in the crude management techniques of a Chinese manufacturer to the modern office in a skyscraper.

Figure 2 is an example of modern American office workspace. Workers are in cubicles, managers in offices, and senior managers have offices with a view. At least we have cubicles to hide in!

These hierarchical working enviornments are based upon basic human instincts, power, control and the most powerful instinct, fear.

Let me offer a new business model for the new economy " Virtual Partnerships".