Most companies use a traditional pyramidal structure, i.e. boss at the top, next in command on the line below, their underlings on the next level. John McKee asserts that this structure probably started about 5,000 BC with the Sumerian civilization. After they crashed, it was picked up by subsequent generations of leaders — next being the Egyptians about 2,000 BC. It has existed, more or less, in the same style since then.
Given how successful this reporting and management structure was for all the past civilizations, I am not inclined to recommend it to anyone.
There are tons of management studies that support the reasons for not using a structure like this. Key issues include
- They are always out of date
- They don’t deal with how things “really” get done
- They distance company leadership from the important work of the organization
FLAT ORGANIZATIONS ARE AGILE
They work when the boss is involved. And, if he or she isn’t involved, they show that the leader is not up to the task and should be replaced.
It’s not simply for small companies. The critical factor — that the boss is never more than one step away from the person who’s doing things – can be modified for even the biggest companies.
Flat organizations work because
- Decisions are made faster
- Money is spent according to the priorities of the company
- There’s less culture clash internally with fiefdoms being created by each department head
Agile or not? Do org charts have their place?
[HT: Tech Republic]