Monday, March 19, 2012

The Demise Of The Org Chart (And The Overs And Unders)

When I became an executive for the first time back in 1987, my boss was a classic "command and control" leader.  Everything flowed through him, and the fear he generated with his sticks was legendary, as well as the power of the occasional carrots.

There was no doubt someone was "over" me, and that I was surely "under".  In a command and control world,  those words got thrown around a lot, and I never ever felt comfortable with them.  I also never liked their visual counterpart, the organization chart., where the overs and unders were in these rigid rectangular boxes, connected with lines that sometimes looked more like tethers.

Those charts implied rigidity, and no doubt, a command and control world.   And more often than not, if the charts became as familiar of a document in the boardrooms as a monthly financial statement, the implication would turn into reality.

There was a day when this "traditional" way of overs and unders would work, and work well.    But it doesn't any more.    Dov Seidman's quote very well encapsulates the world that we are in today, as leaders – a world that demands that all voices be heard, no matter what role they play in a business, an organization, or in a citizenship.

"Connecting and Collaborating" are like round holes when it comes to fitting that model into the square pegs of the traditional org chart.   Lines are now blurred, the tethers released in a spirit of trust and respect.

Organizations are wider and "flatter" now, such that an old school 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper cannot, and should not, ever do it justice.

As a leader, I've learned that being "over" someone just doesn't feel right.  It conjures up those carrots and sticks – and that fear.

In a non-digital world where information could be hoarded, twisted and hidden,  the "over" world of fear could be quite effective – it worked on me for a few years.

But then the doors opened and now information flows freely among anyone with a connection to the Internet – and with that, the ace in the hand of the "command and control" leader began to fade away.  It's hard to push fear in a transparent world.

And so, whither that old org chart?

Is it fast becoming a relic of the "over and under" age of leadership?   I think so, and that's fine with me.

I'm sure those boxes and lines can be put to good use on other charts and Power Points.

In the meantime, we have some connecting and collaborating to do.

Lead well!

Thanks to Terry Starbucker / TerryStarbucker


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