American Way: It sounds very bureaucratic. Don't you run into trouble trying to get things done when a committee has to agree?
Bleustein: Actually, we eliminated the executive vice president level and flattened the hierarchy to get decisions made closer to the work. You can think of this as a team of vice presidents in interdependent areas being involved. You get a much fuller picture of the facts and your options that way.
Sometimes it takes longer to get a consensus decision, but you have to look at the time period from when an issue first comes up until the solution is implemented. We used to make decisions quickly, but few people understood the rationale behind them, so implementation took a long time. Now we let every- one who's supposed to be involved have input, and when the deci-sion is made, it gets implemented quickly and the commitment is by the group. The whole process is actually quicker.
American Way: You also have "natural work groups" that have been called "teamwork without teams." What's the difference?
Bleustein: Permanent teams tend to become rigid and insular, an end in themselves. Some tasks are better done by groups that natu-rally form and then disband when the project is finished, while other groups may last a long time. Some people are on many teams at the same time. The point is to touch all the bases to find out everything that needs to be known about the goal.