I know it’s your sacred cow. You spent hundreds of hours perfecting your org chart. It is a visual flexing of your organizational design prowess. It explains in detail the channels of decision making and communication in your organization. I am here to tell you that your org chart is worthless. It isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. While some may wax eloquent of the virtues of your creation – I say it’s a waste of time. Most all org charts are nothing more than idols we pay homage. Org charts represent a 19th century ideal of command-control with focus mainly on the leader(s) at the pinnacle of the chart. Even in a matrix org chart there is a top and bottom. No matter how flashy. No matter how descriptive your chart is – it is worthless.
First – org charts represent a structure that bottle-necks decision making and limits agility. If you want to see where the problems are in your organization, you need not look any further than your org chart (if you can find it). If you were to take an earnest survey of your organization you might find that your structure slows down decisions making and impacts the overall agility of your organization. The truth of the matter is that the 21st century organization will seek greater flexibility as its access to full time human capital diminishes. Your organization can’t be any better IF your organizational structure is cumbersome. Your org chart is a safety blanket that gives you absolutely no real coverage. Ask yourself this… how long does it take for a decision to be made. Does your front line have to ask their manager for approval for everything? Are you hiring based on an outdated slot on your org chart or are you hiring the best and empowering them to do their jobs?
Second – This is not how systems work in the natural world. Organizations are flattening and embracing self-leadership and a more open approach to the process of business. Organizations must find organic approaches to dealing with change and innovation. One such emerging concept is that of a decentralized organization, otherwise defined as the Open Organization. The end result is not to abolish organizational structures but to create a more flexible flow of ideas and processes that meets the needs of each individual within the organization as they pursue the goals of the organization and its stakeholders. Because of the complexity of business today, it is difficult to visually chart an Open Organization or organic forming structure.
Third – we don’t use them. The sad reality is this. Few organizations spend countless hours to actually USE their org chart. That’s right, we design them and then we stick them in a notebook somewhere and will rarely engage them again. I would argue that by the time the proverbial ink dries, your market silo has shifted and your org chart is now out of date. In our globalized economy, your org chart has the shelf life of milk at room temperature.
Here is a simple test. If you feel that you will lose control of your employees and your organization, then you’re running your organization based on command-and-control. This is a strong hierarchical approach where your organization is very much a top-down approach to leading where the bottom of the org chart is focused on completing the commands of the upper tier of the organization. The problem with this approach is that the bottom tier should be focused on the client and their needs rather than the objectives of the leadership. Like it or not, organizations are forced to become more competitive. If you don’t hire the best, empower them, and then get out of their way so that they can do their job – your organization is in trouble.
While I believe that org charts will be with us for some time. I believe that there will be a day when the only org charts we encounter will be in highly regulated industry, government institutions, and the military. I challenge you… don’t waste one more moment on an org chart. Spend that time exploring how you can create agility and openness in your organization. It’s a new era… it’s the 21st century. It is time we starting acting like a 21st century organization.
Dr. Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.