Charting the decline of org charts …

A tweet by @simonmcmanus quoting the Cluetrain Manifesto : ‘Org charts are written by the victors’ reminded me that I meant to post about the evils of organisational hierarchies a while ago to throw my weight behind the view that organisation charts are a physical manifestation of out-dated and ill-conceived command and control management.

In my view they stifle innovation and creativity, promote conformist thinking and ‘in-the-box’ leaders and leadership styles, encourage the creation of fiefdoms and create self-destructive organisational politics resulting in organisational incoherence.

It has long been recognised that, other than oiling the wheels of the corporate machine, nothing actually ever gets done through an organisational hierarchy. Things get done through networks. That’s what makes new social media collaborative tools and social networking such exciting propositions. Making networks visible to the organisation and to its people and allowing people to follow the energy through their network to connect and collaborate with colleagues, marks the beginning of the end for the organisation chart in my view – and not a moment too soon.

Additionally, as it is now universally accepted that organisational change is a constant, the last thing an organisation needs is a rigid hierarchy – apart from anything else, change never happens through command and control management but through networks – the stronger the personal bonds in a network and the more fluid those networks are, the easier change becomes for everyone.

I’m convinced that, as social networks are adopted within enterprises, the organisational hierarchy will become increasingly irrelevant to the point where it withers and dies completely.

One comment

  1. Richard…love the post and love the heart of the matter. I’ve been whining about the ills of command & control models for a number of years. And I wish that I could believe what you were saying is true or even possible, but I don’t. As a student of human nature, my observation is that we default towards command & control as a way of creating a safety net for ourselves. In other words, we continually operate out of a fear of the unknown, and thus we put as many controls in place as possible in order to help alleviate some of that fear (reagrdless of the frutilessness of our efforts). My guess is that this organic way of thinking will continue to grow and develop alongside the old model and that the two will learn to “peacefully” coexist for many generations to come, with C&C remaining the dominate model. Of course, I for one plan to live as much as possible in the organic, learning to tolerate the neverending remnants of command & control all around me.

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