Upside Down Org Charts


It might sound funny but the way you present your organizational chart says a lot about the way your company culture works.

It is quite usual to present the org chart like this:

org chart standardWhen presented in this manner it is obvious that the weight of the whole organization is resting on the customer.  Not a bad image.  The weight of the management structure is unfortunately resting on the front line employees.  The pressure for success and results relies on the whole management structure getting the front line employees to perform. Satisfying customer expectations and the expectations of a whole management infrastructure is challenging because customers are unlikely to tell sales people or customer service agents what they want to hear.  They have their own agenda and they are independent.  The drive for progress, set from the top and driven down the corporate hierarchy ends up with goals and objectives that front line employees are expected to achieve. Front line employees end up being squeezed between customer and management expectations.

In that context it would be obvious that if an employee wanted more control of their destiny that the “flight” would be up the management ladder.  By moving up the ladder the average employee would be able to exert control over others.  By becoming a manager there is someone else to blame if goals cannot be achieved.  This cycle continues because being a front line manager is pretty rough too.  It would be much better to be a director – closer to the top decision makers and further from the battles at the front lines.  There is more power at the top of the hierarchy.  Power that translates into influence and the ability to insulate from failure down the line.  Performance reviews in this scenario must seem like so much BS because from the perspective of the employee it would sound like excuses as to why I am not already a manager, a director or a VP.

Climbing the corporate ladder becomes a competition.  There are fewer positions up the line and therefore the employee must be seen as better than the next guy.  Looking good is critical.  Making someone else look bad might be a strategy and when that happens trust is the casualty.  Everyone for themselves or cliques mean that politics start to drive company culture.

It doesn’t sound too attractive, does it?

So, what if we flip the org chart on its head?

Upside down org chart newIf people saw the org chart like this it would be easier to build a more positive culture.  Now, the customer is held high.  In fact the whole infrastructure is supporting the success of the customer.  And, the Front Line employees are being supported by the whole management team because they are the crucial link to customers.  The mentality would be that the job of management would be to figure out how to help the front line employees be more successful.   Managers would be selected as those with the greatest capability to help front line employees.  In fact the service culture that is built at the front line now has to completely infuse the management mentality.  Who can serve with the greatest capacity?  That would be the standard for promotion.  Wanting a job is not enough.  It can be for selfish, self-centred reasons.  But being able to serve the team of employees – that should be the measure.  Now, the idea of becoming a director or a manager would be filled with great discussions – great coaching and mentoring.  Developing the necessary skills and competencies are crucial to being effective in serving the area you end up supporting.  Who wants to fail?

Lateral moves would be seen as building strength not losing time on upward mobility.  Lateral moves would help to ensure greater understanding of the business so that when promotion happens the manager has a bigger picture and knows the people, the objectives and the challenges of other parts of the company.  Mistakes are signs of learning not hidden for fear of looking bad.

The greatest weight in the upside down org chart rests on the CEO.  This makes it clear that the competency and capacity for people who aspire to this position must be of the utmost.  This is not a position of privilege or elitism.  This is a position of service.  Failure of character or competency here impacts the whole company, its’ customers and suppliers.

Now of course simply flipping the org chart upside down does not change anything.  Infusing everything with the mentality of an upside down org chart does.  It will take time.  Behaviours must change.  Some people will not like it – people who are self-centred will gravitate to old-school companies.  Putting your org chart upside down puts people first.  It puts their growth first.  It promotes a healthy environment and healthy discussions.  It builds a healthy company.  And, your customers will see the caring and the quality of service that they receive.

Categories: Corporate Culture, Management ImpactTags: , , ,

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