Hierarchies


Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. (Albert Einstein)


My doh! moment for this came when I was thinking about getting rid of folder hierarchies for my documents, and this led me on to thinking about my feed aggregator and how I should get rid of the folder hierarchy in that and replace it with tags instead.

We currently struggle with the structure of a large organisation because we try to force it into a single hierarchy, starting with the CEO at the top. When the organisation is big enough to be split into regions this is “enhanced” by a separate regional hierarchy and we end up with what we optimistically call a “matrix organisation”. Everybody has a functional boss running a global service and a local boss reporting to the regional head.

Big fleas have little fleas
On their backs to bite ’em
Little fleas have littler fleas
And so ad infinitum

This arrangement was determined the first time one man employed another on a permanent basis. It is effective in small organisations because there can only be one decision maker. It is the only model that has survived for any length of time in large organisations because it enables the control framework that the senior managers feel they need to direct the organisation.

Is it still necessary today, or are we using a model that was only appropriate when real-time information was not available? What other options would be available today if you were creating a brand new multinational corporation from scratch?

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