Organisational hierarchies – an alternative model

You are my boss. I am their boss.

That model breaks down immediately in the global organisation that I work for because we try to have international teams led by people who have global responsibility. However in some regions people must have a local line manager. Hence for some processes their boss is a local person, for other processes their boss is somebody in a far off location. Conflict ensues.

But only because we call these people “line managers” and “reports” and stick to the fiction that there is a single hierarchy that fulfils all requirements of communication and decision-making. When you acknowledge the regional dimension you create a “matrix organisation”, which is simply a hierarchical organisation with its management complexity squared.

There isn’t really any need for this structure to be imposed on the organisation. It’s a legacy of the way that primitive companies were organised before real-time communication made other models possible.

Now all we need to do is define an individual’s role in a process. More particularly we need to define an individual’s role in an instantiation of a process. I decide that person’s bonus, she has spending approval against that cost centre, they need to approve changes to this system.

Being a “boss” encompasses several roles in a number of processes. Some of them are interdependent and there may be an advantage in one person handling a portfolio of process roles with respect to another person. But this should be informed by a thorough analysis of these processes and an understanding of the roles within them.

Here’s 30megs, now go run Germany. 

This isn’t an advert for Thingamy, but I’m sympathetic to the idea that we overcomplicate management issues by clinging to outdated models of military organisation.


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