Flat organizations are when the organization has few or no levels of management between everyone in the organization. It is a popular topic these days and many organizations try to become flat organizations.
Some organizations naturally evolve into becoming flat organizations while others are hierarchical or have a different structure and try to move into a flat organization.
Why Flat Organizations ?
Flat organizations have numerous benefits. These include increased responsibility held by each employee aiding their motivation, faster decision making (if people are truly empowered), reduced salaries as the middle management is no longer needed.
Additionally there is a sense of better communication, more clarity of the organization’s purpose and better collaboration among members.
How are flat organizations implemented?
Many a time people equate a flat organization to an open office concept. However nothing could be further from the truth.
A flat organization is more to do with reporting requirements and culture than office layouts. The organization must empower team members to make decisions, it must allow everyone to be accessible at all times and reduce the reporting requirements.
Creating a flat organization takes significant effort from the leaders to ensure there is a high degree of clarity in the vision and goals, ensure everyone’s tasks and work is aligned with the organization’s direction.
Common pitfalls in flat organizations
Flat organizations tend to create lots of generalists but no specialists as everyone tries to know and do everything.
People will feel that they have no where to get promoted and grow in a flat organization as the structure is limited.
Larger companies will have great difficulty in becoming flat as it really is difficult to manage when you are flat and have many people to work with.
The largest pitfall though is that there is a degree of confusion and indecisiveness with who is the boss and who to take direction from in a flat organization.
How Org charts can help flat organizations ?
Clarity of direction is paramount in a flat organization and an org chart can actually help hear. Regardless of the type of structure, you could illustrate the leaders for each team in an organization. You could illustrate it in a way that is not a typical org chart yet shows the key individuals to take direction from or team leaders.
The following Organization Chart diagram shows a way to do this without making it feel like a hierarchical organization. This was drawn using our org chart software and the template is available for free use by anyone.
While the chart is a simple tool, it clarifies many things to the organization and is a key tool in making sure no one is confused in their own roles.
While it keeps away from people’s positions or roles, it draws the reporting lines in a horizontal manner so that people feel that they can collaborate and cross communicate without any need of formality.
Similarly the culture, structure and the organization needs to come into play and needs to be reinforced by conscious decisions by the leadership to ensure that everyone works in a flat manner in the organization and collaboration is the default way of working.