In an HBR article, Elliott Jacques, author of Requisite Organization: The CEO's Guide to Creative Structure and Leadership, states that “The hierarchical kind of organization we call bureaucracy did not emerge accidentally. It is the only form of organization that can enable a company to employ large numbers of people and yet preserves unambiguous accountability for the work they do. And that is why, despite its problems, it has so doggedly persisted… There is no denying that hierarchical structure has been the source of a great deal of trouble and inefficiency. Its misuse has hampered effective management and stifled leadership, while its track record as a support for entrepreneurial energy has not been exemplary. We might almost say that successful businesses have had to succeed despite a hierarchical organization rather than because of it.”
Hierarchies have worked well in the past, until now. In the environment that businesses run today, hierarchies are said to smother ideas, creativity, and the ability to innovate. From contributing to passive leadership on one hand to encouraging risky leadership, hierarchies often propagate soul-crushing bureaucracy and domination. But some still say that hierarchies, frameworks, and structures are necessary evils — and are vital for the growth of the organization and provide guidance to employees. However, while there is a plethora of arguments against hierarchies, maintaining holacracy, flatness or openness poses another set of challenges. From confusion, a lack of ownership during troubled times, avoidance of difficult conversations, managing underperformers, to issues of scaling — it’s not that simple when it comes to operating in flatter organizational structures.]
There is no denying that hierarchical STRUCTURES HAVE been the source of a great deal of trouble and inefficiency. Its misuse has hampered effective management and stifled leadership, while its track record as a support for entrepreneurial energy has not been exemplary
So rather than asking the question “Do hierarchies work or flatter structures?”, the question should be “What does the workforce of today demand and need?” or “Does innovation really depend on organizational structures?” or “Is it about hierarchies, flatter organizations, or open communication channels?” The questions go beyond organizational structures to encompass issues related to leadership, engagement, and innovation. How prepared are our organizations to address them?
Click on the tag #KillHierarchies to read what the experts have to say.