HomeLeadershipHierarchy or non-hierarchy?

Hierarchy or non-hierarchy?

  • 2 Min Read

I’ve constantly battled with the best operating model and subsequent organisational structure to adopt in order to meet the business needs. The question now for organisations is “does hierarchy still have a place within organisational structure?” 

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Looking back, the concept of hierarchy came from Henry Ford who was famous for making cars faster than competitors.

A decade ago to more recently the thinking has been more around flatter hierarchies that allow communication to flow easily through the organisation and to remove layers of decision making. This is typically in large or mature organisations that want to make their scale more efficient and feel that the smaller spans with many layers react to business demands and communicate slowly. Unless you set up incubator or spin off models, moving entirely away from a form of hierarchy is very difficult.

However, for those organisations that are starting out or are able to completely transform their model, the question Is even more interesting “does hierarchy still have a place within organisational structure?”

A modern view on hierarchies

Modern day organisations need to be innovative and nimble to form teams quickly that are multi-skilled rather than traditional functional models. For example, the meteoric rise of technology organisations is largely due to their principles such as ‘self-forming teams’ and ‘devolved leadership but generally, they are flexible to get behind deliverables by not being rigid in their structures or functions. Smaller organisations are playing with a full heterarchy model, which can work if you need a number of people to play different roles but requires more structure as the business matures.

I would say, one size doesn’t fit all, and you should choose a model that considers; business needs, the evolving market, the need to communicate, innovate & deliver at speed. This will determine whether a traditional hierarchy, a flatter hierarchy or a complete heterarchy is the best option.

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