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Organograms (organisational charts) dysfunctional, functional or truly progressive?

Image by Hemma Kearney, Show and Tell Productions.

When you look at the organogram below, the layout will be familiar – as many of our modern day organisations are structured this way – but how much does this way of organising enable equality? And do roles in boxes and status/titles get in the way of a true flow and rhythm that is natural and innate for getting work done?

Organisations and workplaces have grown in size and some e.g. the NHS have over a million employees, so we do need a way of organising ourselves. And there is much work to be done - there are many social atrocities, and issues in the way we are living that require attention, and with a planet to run – utilities, transport, communication systems, health and social care to deliver there is a need to organise ourselves around this. But how much do we consider every attention to detail about the way our workplaces are structured and organised? And that some things maybe counter productive – literally so, quashing the natural innate quality and productivity within us all?

It maybe that flatter structures are more supportive for work flow rather than organograms with hundreds of lines and boxes, but more so, whatever the structure what is implied about it and the way work is done is what squashes and crushes us not to be the best we can be, and it may well be one of the reasons we get sick, exhausted, or our behaviours are erratic or grumpy at work.

Take the organogram in the picture above. Remove the titles and this is what it is laid bare – bosses and subordinates. Does this not feel oppressive?

It may feel slightly different if it were like the one below as it brings a little more warmth making the workplace feel more about people than titles and roles.

But what else is insidiously held within these organograms as we often see them in workplaces today?

  • Imbalance of power – when we are all equally power-full.

  • A seeming lack of the fact that we are all leaders and followers at any one time, and, we need to be on the front foot with this to be responsive and productive.

  • The ability to hide within the structure either to not put our head above the parapet and let others do it for us, or an excuse to stay small because others have seemingly better or bigger titles than us.

  • Demarcation lines – ‘more than my job’s worth’ for us to stay within the boxes and not traverse where needed to get the job done, and territorial ‘battles’ (even if subtle).

  • Gaps within the boxes – the white spaces that need filling as we don’t live in boxes and silos – we actually live in space, space that is all around us, and when we don’t fill that space other things fill that space – or it becomes a lag or underutilised potential.

  • Potential for weeds to grow in the cracks between the boxes in relation to there being no true flow as it is interrupted by boundaries, lines, and demarcations.

  • The potential to exploit our position, status or role for the benefit of self or our own need for recognition rather than being responsible for humanity, no matter what our role.

  • Pay and gender, age and other potential discriminatory factors – e.g. for everyone who works in the organogram the hour they work is the same hour everyone else works – and pay is often way out of balance in regards to an hour for an hour – we all work the same 60 minutes in an hour, why is our pay so differentiated?

  • Permission to crush another to keep ourselves in power, at the top of the organisation – and if anyone shows potential to lead, it may lead to us being jealous, comparing, goading, denigrating them or trying to keep them small so that they don’t become greater than we are.

  • The potential for work to get lost in amongst the lines and boxes, or duplicated, or complicated.

  • A lack of true role models of our elders or leaders, who got their jobs not because of their willingness to commit in full, focus, live with transparency, openness, honesty, but who cover their butts, and are not willing to be exposed – leaving those of future generations uninspired to want to progress to other roles as leaders.

I’m sure there are other potential issues too, and, this is not intended to be a full critique of organograms, more a curiosity as to whether roles, status, structures, organograms are having more of an impact on the culture and behaviour of people at work than we realise – and how much we truly enable people to be the best we can be.

In the end no matter where we are on the organogram it is up to us to feel our worth, our value, our quality, and what we bring, nonetheless, managers, leaders, employers, organisations also have a responsibility to consider how best to enable everyone, equally so to flourish at work.

True leadership is not reliant on your status, or place in the organogram. It is based on working with all others equally so with a focus on the purpose of what is needed (and not on self recognition or self gain at the expense of others).

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