Companies with traditional organizational models – such as where a hierarchy is in place and all members of the company are subordinate to a single other person – are starting to adopt less traditional “flat” organizational hierarchies. According to a blog from www.tibbr.com, the 2012 Fortune 100 lists Google as the number one company that people want to work for, mostly because of the unconventional way they have structured their company and treat their employees. This can be attributed to its flat organizational structure, which helps employees feel directly responsible for their company’s success. The most difficult part of changing a company’s structure is breaking down hierarchical walls. Here I will discuss reasons why organizations should seek a less conventional approach and what is required to create a successful flat work environment.
There are two primary reasons why companies should consider restructuring their organizational hierarchies. First, companies tend to emphasize where or who an idea is generated from, rather than focusing on the innovation of the idea through many different channels. This results in the lack of development of a good idea, and is why some of the best innovations within a company are overlooked. Second, a flatter structure promotes a knowledge-sharing environment. Knowledge sharing is essential within an organization, and eliminating employee-employer boundaries facilitates a stronger production of ideas. If employees are intimidated by rank, they will be less willing to share their thoughts with employers, and company growth will be hindered. Let the employees feel a sense of control by allowing them to dictate how to share their ideas.
Employers need to do their part in recognizing that eliminating a hierarchical structure – if done correctly – can facilitate corporate growth. They must constantly examine the company’s work environment and re-evaluate their assumptions to best understand which elements facilitate employee motivation and productivity. Employers can no longer tell their employees, “this is the way we have always done things,” because outdated business models will cause their companies to fail compared to constantly-evolving competition.
Companies should strive to create networks for information to flow freely, directly, and to those who need it most. Successful companies are flexible and able to adapt to the needs of their employees. Of course, an organizational hierarchy must exist, but today’s companies must place it among their employees – seeing eye-to-eye with them – rather than placing it beyond their reach or control. It is important for companies to acknowledge the challenges employees face regarding knowledge sharing and to be open to receiving ideas. They should focus on having open discussions that facilitate and permit a comfortable and level playing field.
A successful flat company needs competent employees who keep the best interests of their company in mind. Social enterprise Q&A, for example, allows for employees to collaborate freely without the pressure of supervision. Senexx SolvePath promotes this way of thinking by offering a medium through which employees and employers can interact, in ways that facilitate knowledge sharing. Employees can easily direct questions to anyone within SolvePath. In sum, restructuring a company’s organizational hierarchy and creating a flat structure can facilitate innovation and permit employees to gain a greater sense of responsibility for the well-being of the enterprise.
- Organizational Hierarchy – Breaking Down the Barriers http://innostyletest.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/organizational-hierarchy-breaking-down-the-barriers/
- Doolittle, E. (2012). How Fortune 100 Companies are Flattening Hierarchies Through Enterprise Social http://www.tibbr.com/blog/topics/enterprise-2-0/why-are-leading-organizations-turning-to-a-flatter-organizational-hierarchy/
- Clark, D. (2012). Is Workplace Hierarchy Becoming Obsolete? http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2012/08/08/is-workplace-hierarchy-becoming-obsolete/