S5E6: Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Flat Organizations

“Everyone should be involved in developing solutions to customer problems.” Peter Margaritis

The traditional hierarchy organizational structure has been around since the 1950s, and so have many of the strategies developed to make it work well. As time goes on though, some of these strategies are becoming less effective, while others are simply out of date.

 A flat organization is a company that does not operate on strict hierarchies like most traditional businesses. In these companies, decisions are made at the operational level rather than from senior executives who have little contact with employees at work sites.

One thing about flat organizations is that not all companies can be flat because not every business model is suited to a flat structure. However, if your company isn’t in a tightly structured industry, using a flatter organization can help you become more agile and responsive to reducing hierarchy-related costs.

Most companies have tried experimenting with flat organizational structures, but few have mastered it. Yet some organizations are very successful in doing so. They have implemented policies and protocols that allow them to maintain a happy employee base while producing outstanding results

The last few years have seen an increase in companies pushing towards flatter organizational structures. The 10 elements of a flat organization include

1.      There are no strict hierarchy layers.

2.      Everyone is responsible for what everyone does.

3.      Each employee’s opinion matters, regardless of rank or seniority.

4.      Decisions are made as close to customers as possible.

5.      One size fits all. (Is it a good approach?)

6.      Teams across geographies come together regularly if not daily.

7.       Employees can take their leave whenever they want and are encouraged to do so.

8.      Employees are encouraged to use their initiative and not to feel micromanaged.

9.      Employees wear many hats.

10.  Collaboration and teamwork are emphasized within functional areas

Ego and office politics kill successful collaboration but in a flat organization, these hierarchy collaboration killers rarely exist, and if they do, they’re immediately addressed. Collaboration is one of the underlying principles in improv leadership.

To achieve a successful partnership, there must be a foundation of respect for the other party. Each party should be trustworthy and supportive of the team. If any of these three foundations are missing, collaboration ceases to exist.

Flat organizational structures are not for every organization, however, your organization can adopt a flattish approach and become nimbler by distributing the power and authority to others to make decisions without your approval.