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Dynamic organizations (DOs) operate in business environments characterized by frequent and discontinuous change, They compete on the basis of marketplace agility; that is on their ability to generate a steady stream of both large and small innovations in products, services, solutions, business models, and even internal processes that enable them to leapfrog and outmaneuver current and would-be competitors and thus eke out a series of temporary competitive advantages that might, with luck, add up to sustained success over time. Marketplace agility requires the ongoing reallocation of resources, including human resources. We use the term workforce scalability to capture the capacity of an organization to keep its human resources aligned with business needs by transitioning quickly and easily from one human resource configuration to another and another, ad infinitum. We argue that marketplace agility is enhanced by workforce agility because it is likely to meet the four necessary and sufficient conditions postulated by the resource based view (RBV) of the firm – valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable – if it can be attained. Our analysis therefore concludes by focusing on the two dimensions of workforce scalability – alignment and fluidity – and postulating a number of principles that might be used to guide the design of an HR strategy that enhances both. Throughout the paper, key concepts are illustrated using the experiences of Google, the well-known Internet search firm. Because the analysis is speculative and intended primarily to pique the interest of researchers and practitioners, the paper ends with a number of important questions that remain to be clarified.


Suggested Citation
Dyer, L., & Ericksen, J. (2006). Dynamic organizations: Achieving marketplace agility through workforce scalability (CAHRS Working Paper #06-12). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.