As our company has grown, we've had to think about the way we can support a larger organizational structure without losing what it means to be us. This meant creating things like a Corporate Values Statement and even a company Org Chart. When first setting out on this task, I started with a traditional tree. We have people in management positions, so why not? For me, there are two big problems with this representation:
- It locks people into one place/department, with no indicator that barriers between departments need to be permeable.
- It literally puts managers in positions of superiority above their comrades.
The Role of a Manager
First, let me address the topic of managers. Traditionally the language surrounding management is fraught with inequality, with words like superior, subordinate & supervise being commonplace. The implication here, is that the manager does all of the thinking and without his or her leadership, the team would be unable to do anything. Nothing could be further from the truth at our company and I believe at most (if not all) companies. My take on the true goal of management is very simple: the job of a manager is to make the people that work with them successful.
Enter the Venn Diagram
While building our Org Chart in Illustrator, I stumbled across the option of a Venn Diagram. This solved both the major issues I had and had the added bonus of being a lot more fun to look at!
As you can see, the Venn Diagram allows for the overlap of numerous departments (i.e. Information Architects live in 3), while representing our Directors as hubs, rather than masters on-high.
What did the Team Think?
This visual representation of the company was well received across all members of the team. Here's a quick tweet I saw go out:
When I think "organization chart", I think bureaucracy. @joaquinlippinco's new "organization venn diagram" is ingenious though.
There are a lot of people out there rethinking the traditional business hierarchy/structure. This video interview from Peter Merholz (@peterme) identifies at least one truly flat (and very successful organization) as well as some history on the source of the organizational structures that we deal with today:
I always say I'm a big fan of what works, so I'll be keeping my eye on successful examples of people exploring and playing with corporate structure.
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