We typically think of organizational charts as a set of vertically stacked boxes that represent people and their job descriptions. Additionally, the chart illustrates who reports to whom and the hierarchy of the company. And this is generally how we think about organizations: who is the boss and what are they the boss of?
I’m declaring my disdain of those charts and the vertical structures they represent. I am dedicated to the end of the org chart as we know it!
With that in mind, I’ve created the “Top 10 Reasons I Hate Organizational Charts” list:
Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Org Charts
- They are vertical, not horizontal.
- People are represented as boxes.
- You can’t see the informal relationships of an organization.
- They are a myopic internal vision of a company.
- There are no customers represented.
- There is no community, social or otherwise, represented.
- You can’t see the stage or language of an organization.
- No core value, noble cause, purpose, mission, or vision is visible.
- They don’t promote leadership and mentorship, learning or teaching at multiple levels.
- They don’t support creativity, innovation, uniqueness, and greatness.
Check out this video to learn more:
Rebecca Onion wrote about what is considered the first org chart by New York and Erie Railroad on Slate.com. Besides being historically significant, the chart is beautiful to regard. Designed by McCallum and drafted by G.H. Henshaw, a civil engineer, the chart draws from the natural motifs popular in the Victorian aesthetic. Looked at from afar, the whole resembles a tree laden with fruit or blossoms. Up close, the individual “branches” illustrating groups of employees who worked on the trains have the rough, natural look of vines, twining alongside the straight lines of the tracks that they service.
Henry Mintzberg was the creator of the Organigraph. He was on the right path in terms of freeing us from hierarchy and silos. You can view his sample and see his liberating tool. But even dear Henry didn’t foresee our ability to be completely free to design our true vision.
Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to get out a gigantic piece of flip chart paper and redesign your org chart with great imagination and vision.
What would it look like if you used the following list as a guideline?
- Create a metaphor that represents your business. (What would Picasso do?)
- Draw your values, noble cause, and vision in this picture. Remember that your heart is central.
- How do people intersect with each other, customers, and your community?
- How do people REALLY (informally) interact?
- Are you cross-functional or departmental? Can silos be replaced?
- How do you make and spend money? Can you represent that in the nature of the drawing?
- What communal language do you speak? Are you talking about individuals or about groups, community or greatness?
- Where is your leadership or mentorship pipeline, and how do you illustrate it?
- How do you represent roles, titles, and hierarchy in the picture?
- Place yourself in the picture. Specifically, place yourself where you want to be rather than where you may find yourself today.
Is your picture different from your reality? Can this new org chart set the stage for your strategic plan? After all, a strategy is simply the steps you will take to make your vision come true. What will you need to think of, innovate, start, or stop to develop a strategy that represents the vision represented by your picture?
As of right now, let’s ban the traditional org chart and in its place put organizational vision. This is a critical step toward creating unique organizations that we want to be part of, rather than being defined by the hierarchy of an organization. As we design our organizations, let’s ask ourselves this question: “What Would Picasso Do?”
About the Author: Ruth Schwartz is an internationally certified business leadership coach, motivational speaker and author. She owns High Performance Advocates, a management and leadership coaching company.