The rise of new leadership models, the development of technologies, and the multi-generational workforce mix tend to challenge traditional organizational structures.
Typical hierarchical organizations have already moved towards flatter organizational structures.
“Flattening structures isn’t just about tearing up the organizational chart – it’s about communicating with everyone and allowing every single member of staff to feel like they play an integral part of the vision and mission of the company.” Katie McCrory, Social Impact & Communications Consultant
Source & Copyright: Original by Jacob Morgan adapted for Virgin Unite Business Innovation Series “Future of Work”
Jacob Morgan, best-selling author of “The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization”, brings a detailed description of both hierarchical organizations, flatter & flat organizations and flatarchies & holacracies:
Still widely adopted within organizations around the world, this type of environment sees one-way communication from the top down with little collaboration and communication across the organization. Few people at top make the decisions and then delegate down the chain of command.
The structure is similar to a traditional hierarchy but it is much flatter. How flat it can get depends on what the organization is comfortable with. Creating a flatter organization is not just about minimizing the chains of command. Flatter companies come about when employees don’t need to follow a particular order of communication, decision-making, collaboration, and rules, thus minimizing the layers and the barriers between employees at the ‘bottom’ and those at the ‘top’. Communication, connection and collaboration are thus open across the whole company. The reason this approach is the most popular is because it requires the least amount of disruption to the organization.
Flat organizations are the ‘valves’ of the world, which are completely flat and manager-less. This structure is typically seen in technology companies, start-ups, and some mid-sized companies. It’s rare to find any large organizations that are completely flat. This structure makes the most sense for smaller and newer organizations.
Flatarchies are organizations that aren’t quite flat nor are they hierarchical. They are actually a combination of both types of structures. In other words, an organization can be relatively flat yet can create an ad hoc hierarchy to work on a project or function and then disband. Similarly the organization can have a loose hierarchy that can flatten out when it is required and the return to a loose hierarchy. It’s an adaptable model for organizations, which makes its conducive to the freelancer economy. This approach may be the most adaptable, but it does require more disruption within the organization to take place. This approach is more relevant to medium- and large-sized organizations that are seeking to blend both a solid and a loose structure.
This approach is based on a circular hierarchy with a strict set of principles for how it should be run and how meetings should be conducted and tensions ‘processed’. Each circle is comprised of several people without any job title who may have several roles. Circles above others are responsible for setting direction, priorities and guidance and the circles below are responsible for executing them in an open and democratic way. Holacracy is more common among smaller and some medium-sized organizations.
E.g. This is the approach that organizations such as Zappos and Medium are taking. Zappos, with around 1500 employees is the largest organization to become holacratic. “Zappos is going holacratic: no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy.”
Source & Copyright: Holacracy.org
According to Holacracy.org, Holacracy is a comprehensive practice for structuring, governing, and running an organization. It replaces today’s top-down predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power. It is a new “operating system” that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization.
Holacracy is claimed to increase agility, efficiency, transparency, innovation and accountability within an organization. However, “if your first instinct, when your boss goes on holiday, is to kick back, put your feet up and clock-off at lunchtime, then working within a flat organization possibly isn’t for you. Holacracies, flatarchies and flat organizations require one key component if they are going to work, and that’s trust.” Katie McCrory, Social Impact & Communications Consultant
Jacob Morgan, “The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization”
Featured cover photography & copyright: Flavia Dobraca