• Niklas Hall

How to spot a geo-centric system?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Picking up on our previous story about geo-centric and helio-centric systems, we turn to look at how to identify a geo-centric system. What are the characteristics? Good news is – you know instantly.

Summing up, in geo-centric systems all the separate entities perceive themselves as the center of their own universe. Silos in a continuous state of internal competition. Hence, cross-organizational cooperation is low, resources are monopolized just as information and data. There is little incentive to change and a distinct sort of "operational drag".


If you ever worked in a corporate setting, you have experienced the internal workings of a geo-centric system. The same thing is often true if you worked with public administration or in public service. Any large-scale setup.

Compartmentalization is the typical corporate response to the task of organizing a huge amount of resources, projects and of course people. The organizing principle would be that of an army. Blocks of people doing very specific jobs. Consequently, the organization chart will be a traditional hierarchy. A C-suite manager in charge of each individual business area; then layers of middle managers, then team managers and finally "ordinary" employees with different degrees of specialization.

Traditional hierarchies make it easy to point out responsibilities – at least in principle. An example: IT system has crashed – get the CIO on the line and have IT look into it straight away. Easy!

The downside of the traditional hierarchy is that it translates to notions of organizational power. Power bases are enhanced – compartmentalization is enhanced – by the direct allocation of resources such as budgets and "headcounts". Moreover, KPI structures are usually area specific.

As resources are usually scarce, corporate life often becomes a power struggle for resources and influence. A geo-centric approach, in which the overall ambitions of the organization is often lost. As KPI structures are often linked to individual bonus programs for managers, this most likely leads to further sub-optimization.

A traditional hierarchy; fixed allocation of resources; area-specific KPI structures – the dynamics of competition – are all characteristics of the geo-centric approach.


With a high level of internal competition – data, information and knowledge becomes a critical resource. Thus, the geo-centric approach would be to contain data, not share information and keep knowledge to itself for eventual leverage. Even to the point where data is not being made available across systems and information channels.

As a result, most corporates and all geo-centric systems struggle to provide formats for knowledge sharing. It's not that knowledge sharing is difficult, but the motivation is often lacking. Consequently, geo-centric systems have widespread and heartfelt – even fierce – convictions relating to the need for "secrecy". About the need to monopolize knowledge and information.


The easiest way to spot a geo-centric system is when you are a customer. Cause usually, geo-centric systems provide a customer experience which is out of sync with customer needs and wants.

We've all tried calling a service provider only to be directed from one part of the system to another and then back again. The first sign that you deal with a geo-centric is the "gating system" that lets you dial your way through multiple choices. What it reflects is the internal hierarchy. Pure and simple. Whether or not it makes sense in relation to your request.

When you finally get to speak to someone, they may not – purely unintentionally – be able to help you with all your issues. Not because they won't to, but because they can't. Simply because they don't have access to the entire system and all data related to you. This is the external representation of the internal monopolization of data.

In a wider context, think about – say – public transportation. You might perceive it as ONE system. The thing is, that the system consists of scores of different service providers across busses, trains, metros etc. and may be subject to several (and separate) administrative bodies. The geo-centric approach to this task translates into time schedules not being aligned; regulations that differ across means of transportation (e.g. can you bring you bike on the train/metro/bus?); complex ticketing systems etc.

So, whenever you have a "less-than-seamless" customer experience, chances are that the service provider is a geo-centric system or part of a geo-centric approach.

There are lots of reasons WHY geo-centric systems maintain their structure and approach. A large part of it is historic. The workings of the industrial age make it a popular approach that helps you organize and handle great complexity. So, if you need operational control, if you need to produce and transport a product to an end user, the geo-centric approach will get you a long way. What suffers is the service part of the equation.

Surprisingly for most geo-centric systems, all evidence points to the fact that a collaborative approach delivers more, better and faster results, more EFFECT for a smaller investment of resources, and does so across business areas. Moreover, any organization working in the service economy – or with the aspiration of delivering a more seamless service experience – will benefit from a collaborative approach. A helio-centric approach.

More on the workings of the helio-centric system in our next post. Stay tuned!









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