Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Flat Hierarchy

Since I'm still getting this idea off the ground I want to stick with more personal theory/fundamental posts to help establish my point of view.

This week I'm writing about my ideas for the need of flat hierarchy in the workplace. My definition for a flat hierarchy is a workplace where there is minimal difference in the way management and staff are viewed. Each "side" maintained defined roles they fill on the team, but importance of those roles is brought to equality.

This is an idea that came to me naturally before I actually identified it. My core values for team involve not valuing any one part of the team over another. While it's true that some parts of a team might require more experience and knowledge, it's also true that the team cannot function with any piece missing. The key is understanding that management tasks are simply a set of tasks completed by the team member assigned to them. Certainly, some of those tasks are "power" tasks like decision making, hiring, and firing, but they are still tasks that are essential to the team and assigned to a team member.

I believe that the best teams understand this. They operate with the understanding that everyone has a defined role that integral to the success of the team and they hold team members accountable throughout the chain of command. When separated into management and staff, both sides need to accept this.

Management needs to stay personable. They need to be visible in showing their hard work to staff and connecting those efforts to the success of the team. Some of the most dysfunctional teams have a significant disconnect wherein staff members feel that management doesn't contribute enough to the daily activities of the team. Managers can dispel these feelings by better communicating their activities, challenges, and successes with staff. By viewing management activity as a part of the team's job and not an omniscient position, management can stay a part of the team.

The staff needs to avoid fear of management. To some degree that environment needs to be delivered by the manager, but staff can create it by showing management that they expect them to be a part of the team, not simply the boss.

I'll stick with this topic next week and discuss some activities that teams can partake in to implement flat hierarchies.